“B” is for “Beethoven”, “Blogging” and “B- Work”

Have you heard the saying “perfect is the enemy of the good”? Well, here’s how it played out for me this week.

The “Pastoralele” ‘Ukulele transcription project is moving right along. This week I filmed a performance of page 5 of the score, for a total of about 2 1/2-3 minutes worth of music so far. This is almost to the point where the exposition of the first movement ends. (An aside: the exposition is the opening section of a sonata-form composition. The first movement of Beethoven’s Pastorale, like the first movement of most symphonies written during this time, is in sonata form. I’ll talk about it more in a future post, but one useful way of thinking about it is that the exposition introduces the “cast of characters”, musically speaking, that play themselves out throughout the rest of the movement.)

I’ve played through the entire transcription several times, slowly, since I completed it at the beginning of May. Each time I play through it, I’m noticing more which sections seem to work well and which ones feel “impossible” and need to be reworked.

Last week, this passage gave me some difficulty:

My first attempt as this passage. Notes enclosed by a diamond indicate harmonics.

I was quite proud of myself for arranging this section with a campanella fingering, where the notes are arranged to overlap each other, creating a harp-like sonority. It turns out it was too difficult for me to play up to tempo. Finally, about two days ago, I made the decision to re-write the passage using a more “linear” approach:

The new, improved, more easily playable version. Notes enclosed by parenthesis are harmonics.

Since I was up against a self-imposed deadline (I’ve decided that a video will be released every Tuesday), I learned the new fingering in about an hour. I filmed it, but stopped when I felt I had done an “acceptable” take on the video. My goal wasn’t perfection. It was to get it out into the world.

There’s a discussion, and a demonstration of the two passages in this week’s video:

“Beethoven of the ‘Ukulele, Episode 5!”

Perfection is a tricky thing. It can paralyze us. I know I’m particularly prone to “perfectionism”, sometimes to the detriment of even getting started. I’ve decided to let that go. Once it’s acceptable, it’s more important to get it out, flaws and all, then it is to wait. Another way to think of it: could you graduate while earning mostly “B-” grades? Would that be better than never graduating because all the grades had to be “A”?

Is there something you’re afraid to put out because it’s not exactly “perfect” yet? Here’s a challenge for you: get it to a “B-“, then ship it!

(If you’re curious, I learned the concept of “B-” work from Brooke Castillo, and Seth Godin often talks about the idea of “shipping” your work.)

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Make sure you’re on my email list if you would like to look at the TAB for my arrangement of Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony, flaws and all!

all the best to you!


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