Note: The “*” symbol, when used to surround a word or phrase, denotes an action statement. Thus, if I were to say:


It means that I’m sitting down in your company in the sort of virtual mindspace that we all share when communicating together online.

Just wanted to make that clear.

With that said:

*plops on ground, completely immobile and lifeless*

*people come around her, poking her with sticks*

*They stare at wonder when their sharp prods result in no more than a slight twitch here and there which may just be involuntary motion of the nervous system*

My internet was out for two days this weekend. That’s when I get the majority of my posting done; so that’s part of the reason you haven’t seen me for about 9 days. Plus, all my teachers decided that they all wanted a bunch of stuff due on the same day. When you have 8 classes . . . some undergrad and some grad, then that’s kind of a big deal.

In addition, skill/competency-wise, I’ve spent the past five or six months feeling kind of like a high schooler coming from an inadequate background in horn to a school with a top ranked wind symphony. I did that in undergrad once already. I have no desire to repeat the experience. The pervading sense that I had all during my freshman year in undergrad was that I sucked/wasn’t good enough and needed to get a whole hell of a lot better really fast. And that was on my primary instrument.

The difference now is that while I’m once again experiencing these same would-be past sensations, I’m experiencing them as a result of my performance on secondary instruments; that is to say, instruments that I either have never studied, or haven’t spent a lot of time in the past with in heavy practice (or any . . .). The one in particular that’s currently kicking my butt is the piano. Or the “O-Pain,” as I’ve taken to thinking of it in these last few days.

I suppose the crux of the problem is that I understand the piano, and I understand the theory of how it’s played, as well as what you should do to make the damn thing sound anything other than a dying cow with cerebral palsy (no offense to any CPs out there). I understand how to make the damn thing work, because believe it or not, I took piano lessons from age six to sixteen. Holy shit, right? As a result of that, and my experiences on horn, and having grown up in a musical family (my mother and nearest aged brother both play piano; that brother also plays viola, my other brother plays guitar and my dad sings), my sense of pitch and their relationships is pretty damn good.

I just can’t make my fingers do the crap right. There are various factors playing into this:

  1. I’m rusty as a result of having not really played a lot of piano since when I was 16 years old.
  2. I never really practiced like I should have to begin with – *hides* – I just got away with it by learning how to sightread most of my music really well when I went to lessons. Sometimes I got away with it; other times, not so much.
  3. My hands are about the size of a third grader’s; no lie. Let me put it to you this way: I wear an extra-small in gloves and my ring finger size is 4 and a half. I can hit an octave, but only as a result of having worked at stretching my hands for most of my life. And I can’t hit them fast either; they have to be placed just right.
  4. I’m seriously double-jointed in my fingers. As a result, if I play for too long, my fingers lock up. If I get too nervous while playing, my fingers lock up. If I get too tense while playing, my fingers lock up; particularly my pinky and ring fingers. A problem, right?

Even so, I’m trying to not let these things get in my way. They’re making me take Piano IV because my technical abilities (ie – scales played with correct fingerings) are a little less than wonderful, even for me. There’s nothing to be gained for my being in that class. My piano skills are just lacking, and the only way I can remedy that is through personal practice. The class is for people who need help understanding what’s happening. It’s completely mind numbingly boring for me. I could be spending that time practicing!

Besides, all my teachers this semester have decided that I should already be able to play the piano perfectly (or close), so they keep giving me all of these piano assignments that I also have to practice for.

When I was in trouble with my horn playing, I responded to it the extra pressure by buckling down and focusing in on it. There was a time in my undergrad history where I was getting up at 4 in the morning just to go practice.

It makes my 7 am practice time this year seem almost sane. Every day I get up at 6 something (or 5 something, depending on whether I have any homework that needs to be done . . . or 4 something, same reason) and get over to the music building by 7 am to practice for an hour and a half before going to class. Then, any spare moments during the day are also spent on practice, and then the entire morning ritual gets repeated in the evening when I practice some more.

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. “GEEZ lastcrazyhorn, get a life already!” Or, how about this one: “Maybe you should take a break. You know, trying to shove too much in your head at one time isn’t good for you.”

My response to both possible reactions is this: Number 1, I’m doing this so that I will have a life at some point in the future, and Number 2, it’s not like I spend 6 plus hours practicing at one time (which is what some of the piano majors do). I also knew a couple of trombone players in undergrad who did the same thing.

*sits up, rubbing face blearily*

You know, I don’t know if there is a set number of hours that the undergrads here are supposed to practice, but in my undergrad, we had set hours per week that we were responsible for. If I remember correctly, it was something like 15 or 20 hours per week; I think maybe 15 for music majors and 20 for music performance majors. That’s at least 2 hours a day folks. And think of this, we also had to be at least 4 small ensembles while we were undergrad, and be in a major ensemble every semester for 7 semesters (8 if you were performance). In addition, those of us who were music ed had to be in marching band for 3 semesters.

Think about this. Schedule-wise, they only made wind symphony 1 credit hour (they do that with music majors so that they can tack on more classes in an already insane existence), but the class (this is all for my undergrad, but there are always similarities across the board) met 3 times a week, for 2 hours each time. That’s 6 hours of class time just for one week, and that doesn’t even begin to include the amount of time required for out of class practice (think about 10-12 hours per week).

Okay, so what are we up to? 2 classes (lessons and wind symphony) = 25-32 hours per week, plus the 7 hours required for the classes themselves (6 for band and 1 for lessons). There are only 168 hours in a week. Trust me, in undergrad we kept a careful eye on the make-up of our schedules.

We also tended to be in at least one small ensemble every semester, even though the requirement was only 4, because certain sections were smaller and some people ended up doing more etc etc. My first semester of my freshman year, if I remember correctly (this was 6 years ago btw), I was 2 small ensembles, 2 large and lessons.

Small ensembles usually met 2 or 3 times per week, an hour each time. Let’s just say for clarity that they met 2 times per week, contributing 2 hours to the pile. Depending on the ensemble, the outside practice time for small ensembles generally ranged from about 2 hours a week to oh 10 or so. Thus, let’s check the tally now. Class time just in and of itself: 9 hours just for the classes themselves; hours spent outside of class practicing: anywhere between 27-42 hours per week. Let’s think like this is a fall semester, okay? So add in marching band to the pile too. Marching band in undergrad met 2 times a week for 2 hours each time. 4 hours in class. If there was a game that Saturday, we would meet that morning at 8 am and usually be done . . . oh about 4 or 5 pm. Usually 5 pm by the time everything was said and done. Plus, we had after hour sectionals at least a few times a week that were set up by the section leaders (hi there), and those added about 3 hours per week to our out of class playing time. And we mustn’t forget the personal practice time that was required for the learning and memorization of said music – another 3-5 hours there, I’d say would be a conservative estimate.

Out of class time for marching band . . . 15-18 hours per week. So total out of class practice time is now up to 42-60 hours per week. In class time is up to 13 hours. That’s just four classes. That doesn’t include any of the “academic” hours.

4 out of my 8 semesters in undergrad, I spent in some kind of instrument tech class (string tech, brass tech, woodwind tech, percussion tech). That requires out of class practice time too, but not a lot (well, it depended really on the instrument and the individual). So say, 2 hours out of class practice time, plus 2 hours in class brings our two totals up to: 44-62 hours outside of class and 15 hours in-class. Usually I’d take two or three classes worth 3 credit hours; let’s say 3 just for the sake and reality of most semesters. So that’s another 9 hours of in-class experience. Some classes only required an hour or two outside of class for homework, but as most music majors knew, there was always that one zinger that was usually a three hour music class (think theory III, form or music history). My music history prof would give us these packets that took at LEAST 14 hours to finish, and that was only if you had help and extra sources (since everything was never just in the book itself). That brings us up to 61-79 hours out of class and a total of 24 hours in class. I only have 7 classes here; thus something’s wrong. A true music major never takes less than 8 classes per semester. I should know; that’s the least I ever had (the most I ever had was 12).

Let’s throw in some instrumental conducting and some worthless education class that never had anything do with anything I would actually do, had I actually followed the band director path. The instrumental conducting class met three days a week (MWF) at 8 – 9 am. Bleah is right. In addition to in class stuff, we also had record ourselves doing certain assignments outside of class and do a certain number of observations at other schools/like settings. Recording – eh, 1 hour per week. Observations – (including traveling time?) about 2 hours ish. Brings us to 64-82 hours outside of class and 27 hours in class.

Education classes generally met on Tuesdays and Thursdays and usually took about 4 hours out of my life in the process. Plus, they made you do stupid papers and group work with morons getting their ed degrees in PE, which I’m sure there are those out there who take it seriously, but I for one never met any who did. That’s about another 5 hours outside of class just thanks to the worthless group projects that I had to do all the work on, plus the boring seminars we had sit through occasionally on the Saturdays that we didn’t have games on. 69-87 hours out and 31 in.

College kids spend at least 1 hour a week just getting to and from their classes and that’s only if they live on a moderately sized campus and aren’t computing. Eating, if you eat three meals a day every day is at the very minimum of an extra hour a day, and that’s only if you eat fast. More like an extra hour and a half every day; eh we’ll round it to an even 10 hours. Showering/hygiene, extra 7 hours per week. Laundry – 1 hour. So, I’m just at 19 hours right? Oh, and since I went to a Baptist undergrad, I always had random teachers randomly suggesting our need to go to chapel on random weeks to hear whatever speaker was there that time. 1 hour + 19 = 20 hours. Midnight trip to Walmart/Wa-ho? (Waffle House for the uninitiated). 2 hours. Phone time: well, 6 years ago, cell phones weren’t quite as big as they are now, so I’m only going to put down an hour a week = 23 hours.

Thus far: 23 hours living, 69-87 hours out of class work (probably my guesstimate is a little too conservative for most music majors that I knew–with particular regard towards the ones that actually graduated) and 31 hours in= 123-141. So there’s only 168 hours in a week, right? I know you think I’ve forgotten something. Sleep. The other important part of life. Plus leisure time, but there was a reason that you tried to avoid touching the floor in the practice rooms. *shudders* That leaves 27-45 hours open for sleep. 27 divided by 7 is 3.85 etc. 45 divided by 7 is 6.428 etc.

Surely not, you think to yourself.

Let me tell you from personal experience that this schedule isn’t even as extreme as what I saw some do in undergrad. Sometimes I would trade out some of the extra practice time for studying. I would study from 12 pm – 6 pm straight on Saturdays and 12 pm – 10 pm straight on Sundays, with usually some kind of dinner break.

When I graduated in May of ’06, I graduated with a 163 credit hours after only 4 years in school. 12 hours is considered full time for undergrads per semester. 163 divided by 8 = 20.375. 20 hours for non-music majors is about 6 classes. One of the semesters that I had 20 hours, I had 12 classes. If I remember correctly, I was in 2 large ensembles, 2 small ensembles (in one of those, I wasn’t even on a primary instrument), lessons, string tech, intro to instrumental tech, Spanish 2, adolescent and adult development, Civic life . . . that’s only 10 classes, I’m missing 2 . . . oh wait, that was the semester that I started instrumental conducting . . . we’re up to 11 if my math is right. And meh to the 12th.

In 4 years–8 semesters–I took 76 classes. 76 divided by 8 = 9.5. Now, when I was student teaching, I was only signed up for 4 classes, thanks to the way that it was all set up. So that’s 72 classes in 7 semesters.

Oh and I see that I totally left out all the extracurricular stuff I was in. I was also in MENC, SAI, a fledgling gay rights group, Young Democrats, Alpha Chi . . . there’s another in there somewhere, but hell if I can think of it now. Plus, I liked having friends in undergrad. I made my first ever best friend in undergrad during my freshman year. I made time for those friends whenever I could. It was rough, but I knew that they were worth it.

All that to say that my lack of life now is merely relative to what it’s like to really not have a life.

I also pulled all of this off with some rather important undiagnosed conditions that frequently played havoc in my day to day existence; one of the most important of these being Asperger’s Syndrome tinged with some pretty exciting uncontrolled cyclothymia, with some stress induced heartburn, tachycardia and vertigo thrown in for good measure. 🙂


~ by lastcrazyhorn on January 23, 2008.

2 Responses to “Pain-O”

  1. Wowie! I wondered a bit what had become of you but I’m having much the same going on. My internet wasn’t gone for as long. My confusion/frustration with things around me has a different flavour but…oh…it is so much the same.

    So, I offer you my heartfelt sympathies and believe all will be well even though you feel justifiably nervous.

  2. […] another source just because it piqued my interest, because it related to me. Remember in my last post how I talked about schedules and all? And how I took 12 semesters one semester? Well what I […]

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