The Monsters We Make


I shall name the above monster:

The Ding-Slurp

More about that later.

So often, I see students decide that a passage is difficult. Once they have placed that label on the music, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy!

We see that batch of notes, we think, “Oh man, that’s difficult.” and we tense up accordingly.

This reminds me of that famous experiment with Pavlov and the dogs.

The bell is the stimulus, the salivation is the response.

Do we have similar learned responses?

As you listened to that music, perhaps you envisioned yourself getting ready to play the solo. Did it evoke a learned response?

Students studying for psychology tests will sometimes encapsulate this Pavlovian experiment as the “ding-slurp” theory.
Thus, the name of our monster!

So, if we have developed a learned response that hinders us, we’ll have to learn a new response to replace the old one.

Here’s one simple example. When a younger student is struggling to play higher notes, they often label a note as ‘really high’ and proceed to freak out. Stepping away from the music, I simply play a gliss from 6th to 1st and back down, asking them to imitate me. Back and forth we go, moving to higher partials. When they hit the partial on which they can’t gliss to 1st position, I suggest that they just gliss to 3rd instead. In each case, I play and ask them to imitate.

Usually, they end up playing higher than they thought they could!
Then, I tell them what high note they just reached and even write it down on the page.

Sometimes, their eyes grow wide with the thought,
“Whoa, I just played *that* note?”
Now they are looking at the printed note (stimulus) and realizing that they just played with far more ease than they thought possible (new learned response).

It’s a good beginning.

Pause to consider what monsters you create as you practice your music.