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Sharon Bill Music Tutor & Author

Inspiration, then Perspiration

As part of my private music tuition practice I write a quarterly article for a local parish magazine. Here is a piece I wrote some years ago…
I’ve just finished decorating the hallway: a flash of inspiration led to two long days of repetitive brush strokes to bring to fruition the realisation of a new colour scheme. I’ve also thought about making a new set of curtains with french pleats and co-ordinating buttons and linings, which will only come into being if I get the calculator and ruler out and then spend a considerable amount of time sewing monotonously straight lines. I often say that I only enjoy sewing in hindsight - only when I can see the result of my labours do I look back and think “I enjoyed doing that!” The same is true in any application.

There’s no exception when it comes to music! In our college days my (now) husband spent many hours sitting dozing by the piano as I rattled through hours of scales before he inevitably missed the last bus and had to run the six miles home. It’s a good job he was training for a marathon at the time. There’s always a balance to find between playing for pleasure and then working to learn new skills so that pleasure in enhanced by new music and new techniques. There really is no way to avoid getting down to slogging a batch of scales. However, once you’ve mastered them it’s surprising how therapeutic rattling up and down a piano keyboard can be. Scales are also really great if you’re in a bad mood - you can really take it out on the piano and bash up and down the octaves, and you’re building up finger strength as you vent your frustration!

At first when you begin a new piece, or one that is a little trickier than usual, it’s like trudging through porridge. But, as the old adage states “Practice makes perfect” and then you’ve a new piece you can enjoy playing and the next time you learn something new it won’t be quite so tricky, or you can move on to something even more difficult. Sometimes you get a flash of inspiration and think, “I’d love to play that,” and just like anything else you then have to follow through your first idea and do a little hard work, but then you can reflect on the result of your labours and get that great sense of satisfaction.

I’ve heard it said that any artistic endeavour is 1% inspiration and then 99% perspiration. This may be a little on the gloomy side, but the ethos is sound. However, it’s worth it all to enjoy that 1%. Nothing ventured, nothing gained - get perspiring!