My New Bass and Sopranino Recorders and Having Fun

My recorder practice (focused on alto and soprano) has continued to go very well since my last post on efficient practice.

However, a friend of mine has been wondering whether I am too competitive or driven in my quest for excellence in recorder playing, and asks whether I am having fun, so I thought I’d answer that question here.

First, some eye candy: today I finally got the new bass recorder that I ordered last week:

Franklin's brand new Yamaha bass recorder

I also got a Yamaha sopranino recorder as well as a Yamaha case that allows me to put all four of my sopranino, soprano, alto, and tenor recorders into it without having to disassemble them (the alto and tenor, anyway) and stick them into their own cases. Having had to do that when taking my instruments somewhere has been very annoying and time-consuming. Reapplying joint grease and aligning everything properly is not pleasant.

I expect to hardly play the sopranino. Let’s just say that it is very shrill. I got it just for kicks, to fill out a complete collection of the Yamaha plastic recorder series.

Excellence versus fun?

In pursuit of my hobbies, I sometimes encounter the implicit sentiment that being serious about getting good is the opposite of fun. That somehow, being serious means being “professional”, and that’s no fun, and being an “amateur” means not having to work so hard, and therefore, somehow I am working too hard, in a way not befitting a non-professional.

I’m pretty confused by that. I like doing things well. I like the process of learning, of mastery, of novelty. I also like the hard-earned fruits of dedication.

I train to run fast not because of the time or because of some prize, but because I enjoy the feeling of flying down a hill, the wind whistling through my hair. I enjoy running slower too, but there is a joy that comes only from going as fast as I can.

I enjoy being able to play musical instruments more fluidly and confidently, and with fewer wrong notes, because then I can bring out beauty of the music and the expression. And the better I get, the more I can play with good musicians, and it’s fun to play with good musicians and being able to keep up with them, and be part of something bigger than myself. It is particularly nice, as a wind instrument player, to create harmonies as part of a quartet or larger group.

I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy playing Palestrina with others, and being inspired to try to generate the most beautiful tone and attentiveness to the other lines that I can muster. Pursuit of excellence is not only fun; it is sacred.

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