In search of a soundproof practice booth.

practice blog post pic

My typical expression when I’m learning a new song and no chocolate is available.

I loathe envy those people who sit in front of sheet music they’ve never seen before and whiz right through the song, seamlessly sight-reading every note. You guys suck are impressive. Sure, you might slow down during a few tricky measures or hit a clunker every now and then, but at least you play a recognizable tune. When I’m learning a new song, the music sounds about as enjoyable as the soundtrack from Eraserhead.

I hate learning a new song. Truth be told, my husband and dog aren’t wild about it either. What I do love is the part when I can finally play it without people and pets fleeing the room. Thankfully, there is a way to get from the craptastic part to the kick-ass great part–it’s called practice. It ain’t fun, but it works. In fact, it works really really really well. Almost like magic. Well, if magic were boring and tedious and repetitious and painful to your brain and required endless quantities of chocolate.

Recently, I learned to play that beautiful old Neopolitan song, “Santa Lucia.” Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly a quick study. My fingers felt flabby and awkward. For a very long time the sounds I was making didn’t sound even remotely like a song. Fortunately, on the night I was about to chuck the music (and the accordion) across the room, I was chatting with some accordion pals of mine who reminded me to take it slow. Really slow. As in one or two measures at a time.

That was really good advice. Rather than playing the song from the beginning (which I already sort of knew) to the end, and just replaying the bad parts over and over, they told me to skip the parts I already knew and jump right to the crappy spots. I did that. And sometimes that meant playing two measures for 20 minutes. Once I could play them flawlessly, I was able to add another measure and try playing all three of them together. Then when I could play those flawlessly, I could add another one. And so on, and so on, and so on. I thought it would never end but eventually it did. And eventually the song didn’t suck.

I decided to tape my suffering and humiliation for the blog, in hopes that it might inspire even one poor schmuck like me out there to keep on plugging. Practice really does work. Here’s proof. Warning: the early part of this video is slightly less painful than a root canal. By a dentist looking to determine whether it’s safe.

Keep the faith.

24 thoughts on “In search of a soundproof practice booth.

  1. This is a wonderful post. It should inspire other adults to learn an instrument with your display of torturous fun and chocolate habit.
    More, more !

  2. hahahhahahahahahahahaha…. I been there so so so so so so so so so AND so many times!!!!


    It is a lot of work eh?

    Good for you!!!

    • Hahaha. It’s a shit ton of work, CD. But I’m awfully glad I made you laugh. Without humor practice would really suck, eh? Thanks for the comment. :)

  3. I love this video and the fact that you recorded yourself during this process. Recording yourself takes courage and can add angst, but is a great way to learn faster as you see and hear things that you don’t otherwise. My favorite part are your emotions expressed to the camera during the early attempts. I’ve often blamed the recorder for being defective, as the playback is brutally honest. Thanks for sharing your frustration. I was craving chocolate during parts of the video from just watching. The good news is that you don’t need a “soundproof practice booth.” Inspirational!

    • Thanks so much, James! Practice would completely suck if it weren’t for that payoff at the end. I thought it would be fun to capture a piece from the very beginning to the end–painful but fun. Glad it was instructive.

  4. Great song. One of my favorites. Congratulations for sticking with it. However, I have one thing to ask of you. For your own health and comfort, please lengthen your right shoulder strap (and maybe shorten the left one) and move the accordion way over to your left. The accordion should balance on your left thigh. The treble keyboard should be right under your nose, far enough left to allow you to play without bending your wrist or pulling your elbow back and without lifting your right shoulder or pulling your right shoulder rearward. With your shoulder relaxed and with your right elbow straight out to your side and your hand and wrist straight, your fingertips should just reach the middle of the black keys. Playing with the accordion centered on your body forces you to play with bent wrist and with tension in your shoulder, and is a sure-fire way to develop painful joint and muscle problems. You will be more comfortable and relaxed and will enjoy practicing more, not tire so quickly, and make faster progress if you adopt the correct playing posture.

    • Thank you so much for the great advice, George! I actually do have shoulder problems and thought it was related to something else. I’ll make the adjustments you suggested and let you know how it goes.

  5. I’m in the process of learning the guitar, left-handed (the way it feels ‘natural’ for me to play) thereby eliminating any chances of playing anyone in the modern world’s guitar instead of my own. No matter, it’s an old dog learning a new trick. I’m not up to videoing myself yet (due to the cringe factor) but I can see it coming…thanks for the incentive to practice and to have patience with myself. I’ve bookmarked your blog in the hope I can follow your progress. Don’t look for one from me–I’m not that brave!

    • I’m so glad I provided incentive, Mark! Thanks so much for reading and for following my blog. I hear ya about the cringe factor. But I learn so much when watching myself play. Also–I have horrible performance anxiety and recording myself is almost like performing in front of others, so it helps me work through those issues. :) Good luck!

  6. Keep it going. I’ve been through this many times. Sometimes I’ve had to practice a piece over and over hundreds of times. But it does eventually pay off.
    I can play Santa Lucia with no problem now, my sheet music has the introduction of a few measures which I solo on to start the piece off with the accordion band. When you practice over and over you eventually get it memorized and never need the sheet music again. A lot of musicians can’t play a note without sheet music in front of them.

    • Thanks, Bob. Yes, I try to memorize my favorite songs and have gotten in the habit of memorizing several right after I learn them. You’re right about it being to memorize if you’ve been playing it over and over and over. I love not having to depend on the sheet music.

  7. Thank you for this wonderful video! It lightened me up after the drama of the weekend.
    You offer the purity of the heart of the love of music and the accordion.

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