• Sandra Howe

Help! I’m not improving, what do I do!?

You are doing everything right. You are practising regularly, you are doing the work set and you are still not getting any better. In fact, you think you might be getting worse! Should you give up?

If you are practising, chances are you’re getting better but you’re just not seeing or hearing it. It’s difficult to gauge whether we are improving and whether we are just wasting our time. This is where your teacher comes in handy. They haven’t seen you for a whole week, possibly more – it is likely they will be able to tell immediately if you have been improving or not. Ask them and really listen to the answer.

Improvement is not always audible. Sometimes improvement happens inside you, in your brain, your muscles and reflexes. This type of improvement happens gradually and isn’t always noticed. It can feel like a plateaux, but this is a place where you need to have faith. You need to keep practising and really listen to your teacher at this time because, above all, you need feedback and you are not getting it from your usual place.

Let me give you an example of this. One student I had was learning a piece of music and it was nearly there but they didn’t like the sound. It didn’t sound like other performances they had heard. I suggested that we improve on the dynamics and the balance of the piece. During this time, they needed to work on a new technique to improve the balance. While they were concentrating on these areas the piece sounded worse than before but with consistent work on these techniques they managed to improve the overall piece and the result was amazing. However, they had to go through a period of time when they were not getting audible feedback from their hard work – instead, I provided them with encouragement and feedback and guided them through the process.

When you do not have audible feedback, it is difficult to know what direction to go but with help, guidance and a bit of faith you will get to the other side and realize you were improving all along – you just couldn’t hear it!

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