Have you ever used a slow cooker to prepare a meal? It’s an interesting experience: you put a bunch of raw food in this electric pot, cover it, and them turn on some very low heat. And let it sit there for 4-8 hours.
The thing I find fascinating about it is that it cooks so slowly that it for a long time, it doesn’t seem as if anything is happening. The pot doesn’t get hot right away, sometimes a couple of hours goes by before I can detect any noticeable change in the food.
But then something magical happens, and if you’ve used a slow cooker, you’ll know what I mean.
The food is transformed.
What began as a bunch of raw ingredients becomes tender, delicious, and totally delicious as the food is cooked and the flavors blend. Sometimes a gravy is created and the resulting meal doesn’t even faintly resemble the stuff I put into the pot at the beginning.
The same thing happens on the stove or in the oven, of course, but it either happens faster or out of view. T irony or “charm” of the slow cooker is that it’s “slowness” makes it seems as if nothing is happening. Until it does.
Learning a piano piece is often the same way.
Have you ever sat at your piano, put a new piece on the music stand, and found it difficult to even imagine yourself playing the piece fluently? I sure have! That’s when it’s helpful to remember the slow cooker.
Just like with a slow cooker, it often doesn’t seem like anything’s happening with our music for a while. We plod through the hard parts, learn the left hand scalar passages only to forget them a moment later, and keep forgetting which sharps and floats to play.
But something is happening. Something wonderful.
Our fingers are becoming accustomed to the new patterns of notes. Our ears are remembering how the piece goes. Our hands ands working together in new ways.
Even if we don’t recognize this is happening.
Gradually, if we’re persistent, the piece becomes a little easier and easier and then, as if by magic, we find we can play the piece.
I’ve been doing this for decades, and I’m still amazed each time it happens. I sit down and find myself completely unable to picture myself playing the piece at the correct tempo and with musicality. But I know not to give up and become discouraged. Because I’ve been reminded time and time agin, learning a challenging piece of music is like preparing a meal in a slow cooker. There might not be any apparent progress at first, but something is happening. Slowly, gradually, and behind-the-scenes. But yes, it’s happening and in a powerful way. And at a certain point, you’ll be farther along than you think, and will reap the rewards of your patient hard work.