Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Instrument Practice And Us


Daily instrument practice really means more to our personal growth and wellness than simply having greater veracity on an instrument. As a professional musician practice time can be scarce. “We practice on the gig” as they say. The truth is the solitude needed for a true connection to practice is best done in the practice room, away from anyone else. It is a sensory meditation of sorts. The sound of your own instrument speaks to you. It tells you every bit of information you need. Just the single stroke of a cymbal hit and its resonance can be therapeutic. How does the cymbal sound? How am I reacting to it today? Where then does it direct me musically? As we play we must listen to ourselves intently. I want to be clear about the idea of listening to ourselves, not to be confused with judging ourselves as we play. That is the mental/emotional trap all artists fall into. Playing is output time. When we play if we listen without judgment our stream of consciousness will direct us and our performance output will be optimal. If we judge ourselves it only hinders the flow. The hindrance comes from the notion that we only have so much mental capacity, and all of it must be on the experience of creating music. When we choose to split of mental energy into judgments of our playing, we are not creating and growing at our optimum. There is plenty of time to criticize ourselves to improve. Recording devices do just fine. Even just reflecting on a performance after the performance is a helpful tool for improvement. But we must honor the power of music with our greatest focus and being to serve when playing. We serve not only for others listening, but for ourselves. The service to ourselves is about our spiritual expression and growth as a human being. If mental occupation is all you seek out of instrument study there are better devices out there designed to focus on just that. Playing music is an infinitely greater experience that challenges the whole of our being. Playing music is an expression and communication of emotional and transcendent connections between us and others, as well as us to ourselves. Back to daily practice- How and what we are playing is what connects and communicates to the transcendence of our life beyond the instrument play. For example, when I practice if I notice that I am clenching the sticks, it definitely has a relationship with my life. Perhaps I am fixating on something unhealthily, or afraid to let go of something. Just like I would choke my flow and sound clenching the stick too tight, I choke out the flow in my life by fixating or not letting go of something. Then there’s the practice session where I am a franticly forcing things in, and not letting a flow of ideas stream, even if I am technically sound and relaxed. I explore where in my life does this notion of forcing things persist? Where am I forcing something that just doesn’t fit my path? Our music practice and life are one in the same. Both interrelate to affect our sound performing, and daily experience. I have worked with countless students, from the young to professional colleagues on this concept and see their playing and life (as mine), change for the positive instantly. Art is life. Never forget that we play music for that which transcends us. The growth and exploration is infinite, the power to transform us a divine gift.

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