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Banjo Psych 101

banjo head, banjo psych logoWhy It's Harder To Play For Someone

Do you find yourself able to play well alone or at home, and can't when someone is listening to you? It's an seemingly common reaction, and a LOT of students have this happen. They can play all right by themselves, but they freeze up in front of their teachers or their family! It's sort of like the advanced player who suddenly panics while being the center of attention in a contest. I've done that myself. It was very frustrating.

The fact is that most students CAN play better than they manage to do in front of the teacher. Anyone who has been teaching for a while will probably be aware of this. Here's the most common reason.

All through schooling you were constantly exposed to the idea that if your answers and performances aren't *perfect* to the teacher's standards you are going to be hurt in one way or another. A grade of less than 100% is the most common way, or being embarrassed or in some cases physically hurt. Only perfect is good enough.

Since it is pretty likely you are not going to be playing as perfectly as whomever you saw on TV or heard on a CD recently, there is the distinct imagined possibility of being hurt somehow by the teacher.

The natural reaction to anticipating being hurt is to tense up. If you tense up, you won't play as well as when you feel safer. Simple.

This is a very strong and ingrained program in most people; it was drilled in daily for many years. It will appear in any new real time fine motor and mental skill like this they start to learn with a teacher (e.g. soaring, unicycle......), when they know they are being graded as in a contest or being listened to by someone whom they want to impress favorably.

If someone tells you it is a natural reaction, they are wrong. Normal: yes, natural: no. You can however take it as an excuse to maintain the status quo.... your fear was learned, hammered in. The pattern is pretty Pavlovian in truth. You did not have it at age 3, when is was still somewhat safe to make mistakes. It can be unlearned.

A primary need of a good teacher is to convince the learner that he is really supportive of their goals and aspirations especially if they are higher than the teacher's level of achievement, and to create a safe environment in the lesson. This is what all great tutors do.


Last Updated 15 Jul 2006 by PJH

Edited 01 Apr 2007 by WF