A Good Enough Tempo for a Flute and Piano Duet

Insecurities in Adult Music Lessons

Metronome_good_enough_tempo

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I left my lesson defeated, and wondered why I should even bother playing the Bolling if it wasn’t ever going to sound as beautiful as Rampal. The rule-following-good-girl-perfectionist in me whispered that anything slower than 54 would be failing. But then a small knot in my stomach reminded me that I was the girl who balked at a 97 on a test, obsessing over the three points I had missed. I was the girl who practiced my flute so long and hard in middle school that my sister would often have to tear me away from the music to put a cool compress on my sweaty neck. And I became the woman who looked at motherhood like a test to be graded, focusing every ounce of my attention on my children, often at the expense of my writing, my music, my marriage.

I practiced every day, swinging the eighth notes as Susan had taught me. The sound was new and jazzy; I loved it. I even worked up my speed, but any time I approached the 54 tempo, it was messy: I missed notes and gasped for air.

As I unpacked my flute, a flood of excuses flew out of me.

On the day that Karen and I were to rehearse together for the first time, I entered her apartment nervously. As I unpacked my flute, a flood of excuses flew out of me: “You know, I only picked up flute again a few years ago.”

Pause.

“I’ve never played jazz before,” I added.

“I think I need a stronger prescription for my glasses,” I said finally.

Karen just smiled and played her part beautifully, but much slower than the 54 tempo.

“It’s supposed to be faster,” I said, sounding like a fifth grade know-it-all.

“Oh, I know, but I can’t play it that fast,” Karen replied matter-of-factly, and added, “I didn’t realize we picked the hardest one. It’s like choosing the New York Times as a first crossword puzzle.”

That night I left Karen’s apartment with “Baroque and Blue” still playing in my head, but this time it was at our tempo, our good-enough, best-we-could-do tempo, and it was beautiful.

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Copyright © 2018 Nancy M. Williams. All Rights Reserved.

3 Comments

  1. thought the article about flute and piano interesting and well written. the writer made you fell exactly how nervous she was
    thinking she was unable to play the right tempo.

  2. thought the article about flute and piano interesting and well written. the writer made you fell exactly how nervous she was thinking she was unable to play the right tempo.

  3. The article is easy to associate with my own piano struggle – learning efforts. I have heard that: if a tune is played 100 times it is yours. I think that the tempo should be whatever you want it to be at that time.

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