Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A thought about motivation and saving money

Over the years, I have, like many people, had a number of hobbies and interests. Some of them, like music and stamp collecting, I have been pursuing avidly, and more or less continuously, for thirty or more years. Some, like bowling and aquariums, I have been in and out of, seriously studying and working on them when I'm in, not even missing them when I'm out. Some pursuits, like disc golf and stunt kite flying, I went gangbusters from the get go and then suddenly stopped and just never went back. One thing, though, that all my pursuits, interests and hobbies have in common is that I tend to give them more energy and to do better in them when I have something new to pique my interest. Maybe a new bowling ball or wrist device for bowling. Maybe a new stamp album or catalog for stamp collecting. Maybe some pregnant guppies for the aquarium or a new long distance driver for disc golf. Whatever, it just keeps me involved. When I started back playing the piano, before I found an instructor, I set about building my own library of drill books and music, and that drove my learning for a long time. Inevitably, after a spell, I would stop making progress in one or more of the books, or I'd get tired of playing the same songs, or whatever, and my interest and enthusiasm would wane. Then I would read about or hear about this other drill book or method approach and I'd be all over it again and playing out of the new stuff and the old stuff, making real progress. Then I found an instructor and he led me to some other books and methodologies and again, everything picked up. Lately, I've been doing well without buying any new books in over a year (although I have bought a lot of music to listen to).

Well the other day, I was surfing around on amazon.com and I found another jazz piano book that was getting nothing but rave five star reviews. I had been going through a rough patch in my playing and was looking for something to excite me again, and I thought I found it. I was very close to dumping another seventeen bucks into my jazz piano education, but then, I stopped myself. (Yes. I may in fact be finally starting to mature.) I thought, you know what? I've got five or six drill books already, and I've worked pieces of all of them, some of them I've even gotten more than halfway through, and yet, not one of them, not one of them have I gone through cover to cover yet. Not one. Maybe I ought to prove to myself that I at least possess the fortitude and stick-to-itiveness to actually complete one book. So, I promised myself: I will not buy any more piano books until I completely play through one of the drill books I already have.

Now, I could have chosen an easy one in the interest of just bashing through the book and getting to buy the latest thing that has caught my interest, but I thought that not only was that "cheating", but that it also wouldn't do much for my piano playing. So, then I thought, well, pick the hardest one then, but I realized that again, I would bog down somewhere in the middle and no doubt, lose interest, and even the promise of a new drill book could not excite me enough to push through and complete it. So, I chose one of my middling books, a jazz chord book, that I had previously made it through about twenty of the fifty exercises. And so, that is the one I'm working on now. I'm also using Hanon everyday to work on fingering and slowly, also, pushing my way through that book. I have a starting point that I return to everyday in each, and a max advance point, as well as a "start practice" point. It is possible I will make it through both of them at about the same time.

Then maybe I can buy two new drill books.

The point is, motivate yourself. The music will come on its own. And don't waste your money buying the latest thing until you've gotten all the value out of the things you've already invested money in.

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