Love the English language. Breakthrough! What a word, what shortcut! Anyway, let’s move on.
It happened to me twice in my life. Every time, I didn’t feel it, didn’t even realize it. I couldn’t tell you the day or the time. Just one day I’m on one side of the wall, the next, I’m on the other side.
I am talking about something fairly easy to describe but very difficult to do: making rapid progress on the instrument.
I am, I don’t know if you know that, a donkey. Whether it is for the piano or the drums, it takes me triple the amount of time to learn anything than the average Joe. I struggle, you got no idea. Yes, that might explain why I am a teacher. The worst pupil I’ve ever had is me. What a square head! I had to devise all sorts of methods, concepts, warm-ups, tricks to get the knowledge I wanted. And, of course, psychologically, the amount of patience, persistency, resilience, humility is gigantic. And love. Oh, I almost forgot love. Why? Because when I learn something and compare my progress to the students I teach everyday, I hate myself. The work, the pain, the struggle! Why can’t I just get it like the rest of humanity and move on? I have to be very nice to myself in order not to swing my 1500 lbs. grand piano out the window (When I’m mad, I’m superman!).
Fortunately I get here and there a free be. Among those gifts the big one is the breakthrough.
This one comes after hours, days, months, years of grinding it. It comes after trying a bunch of different concepts whether it’s improvisation, paradiddle independence, dynamics, sight-reading and the likes. I sweat heavily through every one of those concepts, feel my pain real deep, oh Baby! the despair is incommensurable. Then, one day, as I rehash my octaves or my bass drum pedal technique, I notice that it goes much easier, much faster than before. All of the sudden I can learn a new subject in a “normal” amount of time (Heavy quotes on “normal”, because what is?). The new style I decided to tackle is understood faster, my body doesn’t balk at the strange or straining motion I ask it to do. More than that, my intellectual cogs seem to be well oiled to start transposing in the key of Db, or switching my ride cymbal from my right hand to my left hand (You should try that last one: fun tears!). When I have my breakthrough, everything becomes a mild joy instead of pure torture. I say a mild joy because I still have to fork out a ton of work to digest the knowledge. In the new territory, where my students (yes, all of them) roam, I can pretend for a second to be normal and forget what I truly am: a donkey.
Mozart was lucky. And I am too, because, pain or no pain, I enjoy the process of learning thoroughly, it’s me, I would dare to say it’s my signature: Sol-The-Pain (Wait! That came out wrong).