Performance anxiety in a private lesson

Today M had group class and her private lesson. The group teacher focused a lot on left-hand technique and mindfulness, asking the kids to “prepare in the air” as they played a D scale. He also demonstrated, by way of a contest with a student, the importance of keeping the left-hand fingers close to the neck: He and the student raced to play a note, one starting with a finger close to the neck, the other with a finger splayed out. Whoever had the finger closer to the neck won the race.

Then he had M and one other student demonstrate their left-hand technique for the class on a short portion of the scale. They each did different things with the pinky — his was straight but close to the neck, and hers was curved but further from the neck than it had been. The teacher said M’s technique was “healthier,” while the other kids was “safer.”

Apart from this, M was not as lively as she usually is. She didn’t volunteer for something she knows how to do (Perpetual Motion on the G string), and when we did the note-reading page, she got way more notes wrong than I would have expected. I think two things were happening: (1) she was tuning out of class, and (2) she experienced some performance anxiety. (The note reading was done in teams, and individual team members read a line on the staff while the rest of the class listened and tried to identify mistakes.)

At M’s private lesson, her teacher went over several of the Guitar Olympics events from group class, and M underperformed. She forgot to say the note names when she conducted Aunt Rhody; then she said the note names but lost the tempo. Then M made a hash of Perpetual Motion on the G string. Both of these are things she usually does much better at home, and M appeared nervous to me.

On the plus side, M did a nice job on Meadow Minuet. Our assignment is to keep working on it as follows:

  • Learn the rest of the melody, with me on the bass.
  • Start learning the bass, with me playing the melody.
  • Perhaps start asking M to put them together. But I don’t want to rush that.

As M and I were leaving, I told M that I think we should make up a practice plan for the week in advance, to make sure we get to everything. She’s got a lot to practice for the Guitar Olympics, and With Steady Hands is still not even close to solid. In fact, I felt bad when her teacher asked M to play it today — M missed all kinds of notes, which is kind of my fault, given that we didn’t practice it all week.

I did manage to get some note-geography quiz practice out of M on the car ride to a party this evening, so that was a good use of the commute time.

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