Tempus Fugit

“As usual I told myself that everything would change tomorrow. Tomorrow never came, because it couldn’t.” (Clive James – from May Week Was In June )

I plan to take up procrastination when I retire – bit busy right now. I have never agreed with Edward Young that it is “the thief of time.” And it’s not simply because he also wrote, “Some for renown, on scraps of learning dote, And think they grow immortal as they quote.” The cheek of it!

This poet engraver knoweth not,

The endless hours in which are wrought,

The blogger’s musings, born of sweat,

Two-meg broadband and t’internet.

No, procrastination seems to me more like the thief of achievement.

Recent reflections on pupil practice have prompted me to consider the idea of a handbook of guidelines for pupils and parents about practice: what it means; how much time is required to progress at any given age; how to make the most of that time. The parental involvement is clearly more relevant to, say, a pupil in P5 than S5 but reflections on time apply to both situations. Many pupils claim they haven’t had time to practise due to clubs, activities, homework, family commitments etc. There are two possible solutions here:

  1. they need to be convinced of the amount which can be achieved in the moments between other activities
  2. they need to be able to see a clear description of practice recommendations while considering the option of instrumental tuition

I don’t like to rain on September enthusiasm and so I favour the former. I also hear a ring of truth in the saying, “if you want something done, ask a busy person.”

So, how much can be achieved in a short time? Technically tricky moments are often to be found in transitions rather than sustained passages and problems can be pinned down to a few beats or, at most, a couple of bars. After all, a piece which is laden with difficulties is probably not going to be given to a pupil.

Practising slowly, a 4-beat bar might last for 4 seconds. Playing it once with a 4 second gap to realign the mind, eyes and hands before repeating would last 8 seconds. This means that a pupil could repeat that passage 7 times in one minute. Tea’s out in two minutes, would allow them to play it 14 times – which could be enough to conquer it. Extrapolating from this, one could play the troublesome phrase 95 times in the 15 minute interval of a Scotland vs Brazil World Cup final. By this time, the alarm might have gone off and you’d realise it was all a dream.

2 thoughts on “Tempus Fugit”

  1. I’m so familiar with that “I haven’t got time” argument! And yet, as you say, a little often is so much more effective.
    Don’t you find though, that one of the biggest hassles for kids is the palaver that has to go on before a note can sound – actually getting the instrument out of its case/box whatever and putting it together, tuning, putting up the stand, finding the music etc. That can take a good 5 minutes or more, and the same when putting it all away again.
    We found that getting a gig stand and identifying a safe place for the instrument to remain out helped a lot in just being able to pick it up and get on with it, in all those “spare” 15 minutes. I suppose many houses don’t have that space though.

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