Monthly Archives: February 2015

Exorcising and Exercising the Demons – On Learning to Play the Piano

I really, really like to play music.  And I like to improve as a musician.  That feels great.

But, I don’t practice every day.  I would like to, but I don’t.  Even though it is so much fun!  Some days it’s just too hard.  Every day  it is very hard, but some days it is TOO HARD.

And the thing that makes it too hard is not the difficulty of the pieces or that piano is too hard, it is that my ego can’t take it.  Sometimes the demons are too strong.

No matter what I do, every time I sit down at the piano (and I mean every time) I have to give myself over to the honest truth that I am not going to sound like this.

But I wanna sound like that!  IT IS FRUSTRATING!  I’ve worked and worked and I only sound like this.

Every time I even look at the piano I can feel the little demons in my stomach.  Questions come up like, “Should I even try?”  I think to myself, “It will probably never happen.  I don’t want to put myself through the pain today.  I can’t practice.”  I get frustrated and I go find something else to do.

Many times I’m able to work through all of those uncomfortable feelings, and after about 20 or 30 minutes I’m able to have a good time.  But I’m not able to work through it every time.  Sometimes my inner demons get the best of me and when they do, I don’t practice.

I write this because I have a lot of conversations with the parents of my youth guitar students.  Often they say things like “[mystery student] really loves the guitar and loves coming to class, but she never practices.  But she says that she really wants to learn.  I don’t know what to do.”

I can’t pretend to know why these students don’t want to practice at home, but I often wonder if it is for reasons that are similar to mine.  Do these young students look at their guitars and start to feel bad that they haven’t put more time in?  Do they think that others (maybe me and their parents) expect them to be further along?  Is it really that they “just want to play video games?”  Or, do they feel so much internal and external pressure to keep up that they decided to do something else, rather than be open to the vulnerability of learning.

What about you, the reader of this blog post?  Do you ever feel this way, either in terms of music or other aspects of your life?

If you have a tough time practicing, please remember that there are lots of folks like you.  And, if you’re the parent of a student who doesn’t want to practice, I recommend asking some questions to help your student figure out why.  I have a feeling that there can be some deep stuff going on in those little minds.  Maybe we can be helpful.

We’re all in it together friends.  I’m glad that we’re here to support each other.

Lincoln’s Birthday 2015 – “Old Abe Lincoln Came out of the Wilderness”

We celebrated the birthday of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, in my Kids’ Guitar Level 2 class at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

The Old Town School of Folk Music is on LINCOLN Ave.  The School is located in the LINCOLN Square neighborhood of Chicago, IL.  Illinois is also known as the “Land of LINCOLN”.

I learned this song from the collection Soldier Songs and Home-Front Ballads of the Civil War, compiled and edited by Irwin Silber.  The song is to the tune of The Old Grey Mare.

Here is a .pdf with the lyrics, the chords in the key of D and the melody and a note map to play it on guitar.  We hope you enjoy it!

Old Abe Lincoln Chart

Old Abe Lincoln came out of the wilderness

Out of the wilderness, out of the wilderness

Old Abe Lincoln came out of the wilderness

many long years ago.

Many long years ago.

Many long years ago.

Old Abe Lincoln came out of the wilderness,

many long years ago.

Additional Verses

Old Jeff Davis tore down the government .  . . etc.

Old Abe Lincoln built up a better one . . . etc.


Frosty Weather Guitar Lesson

There is a big snow storm rolling through Chicago today.  Some appointments got canceled and I found myself with some time around the apartment.  I thought I would take the opportunity share this great little tune from Ireland called Frosty Weather.

The lyrics are

Frosty weather, snowy weather.

When the wind blows we all go together. 

Download a lyric sheet and guitar note map for Frosty Weather.    And watch this quick lesson to hear how to play the song.

Hope you enjoy it!