One of the most exciting things a great musician can do is play a piece with wild, emotional abandon AND technical accuracy. It’s not easy for most musicians to pull this off!
To me, “wild abandon” happens when an artist dares to be inspired, free and spontaneous, let loose, feel deeply, and just play naturally. When combined with dazzling technique, nothing is more riveting and enjoyable to experience!
So… how can we work on achieving that ideal balance between wildness and accuracy? Easier said than done…
And yet, surprisingly, one of the biggest secrets to doing this is rather counterintuitive: we need to be okay with screwing up!
Because, all too often our technique ends up falling by the wayside when we try to let go, and the result turns into a chaotic MESS, with intonation and rhythm being the first things to sour!
[Watch today’s live video, where I talk about 10 skills you should focus on to play with wild abandon while still playing the right notes.]
Honestly, it can be risky and terrifying to just let yourself go, and that’s why most of us don’t even try. But if you believe that you can learn from any experience – for better or for worse – you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier, when you practice going for it one step at a time… above all when you have steps that work!
Here are my 10 steps to playing the right notes with wild abandon!
- Get Your Priorities Straight!
Why are you a musician? Why are you making music? Are you just doing this to impress someone with your technique? Probably not. Most likely, it’s because you love music and it moves you and you want to share it. One of the most important steps in getting to a place where you can play with freedom and still play the right notes is to know firmly where your priorities lie. Once you know what’s most important to you, you can start to let go of the perfectionistic mindset holding you back. If you aspire to the kind of artistic mastery we’re talking about here, you can’t let your desire for perfect technique be your master.
- Get Control Over Your Mind
Every musical idea begins in the mind, so you need to have a clear mind, with clear ideas and intentions, without a lot of extraneous thoughts. Don’t let your mind get distracted, and don’t let yourself be thrown off by your circumstances. The Awareness Etudes I teach in my Art of Freedom classes are extremely effective for developing appropriate focus without excess tension, and getting better control over your mind.
- Be Balanced and Centered in Your Body
Everything is connected, and everything you do in your mind is reflected by your body. If your mind is all over the place with cluttered thinking, your body will be all over the place with excess tension, too. And, guess what! Your technique can’t be as reliable when your body is imbalanced, inflexible, and less responsive because of overall excess tension. You can’t be as emotionally free when your body is stiff and rigid, either.
- Practice the Way You Want to Perform
When you’re practicing, how much of your time is spent on technique? How much of your time is spent on bringing out the creative spirit of the music and pouring heartfelt passion into what you’re doing? You need to know how to do both together. If you want to achieve a balanced performance, combining technical accuracy with a spontaneous style in which nothing is ever played exactly the same way twice, you’ve got to practice both of these ways of approaching music at the same time. Learn to be creative in the moment, with ease and excellent mind-body coordination.
- Know How To Practice Mentally – Without Your Instrument!
To be really free, you need to be able to “play” your piece in your mind first, without your instrument. Mental practice is invaluable to achieve real control over your technique; if your technique is under your command, then you can let go emotionally much more easily, without worrying so much about slipping up with your technique. Mental practice techniques are something we work on regularly and in significant detail in my online classes.
- Dare to Screw Up!
If you’re open to learning, and you’re playing from your heart, anything you play can be an enjoyable experience – even if it isn’t perfect. You have to be willing to let yourself make mistakes and take a chance… and then learn from those mistakes for next time! It can be difficult at times to feel like you’re failing, but you have to let go of caring so much what other people think and practice this kind of risk-taking if you want to make great art.
- No Matter What, You Need to Love and Accept Yourself.
This may just be one of the most important steps there is. If you’re not loving toward yourself, you can’t expect others to love you and what you do, either. Appreciate yourself – you took the risk! You did it! Think about how much that means to you and have empathy for yourself. Don’t pick yourself apart or put yourself down. Accept yourself in every moment, no matter what happens, and no matter what you do or don’t do. Can you love and accept yourself unconditionally? Even when you mess up?
- Let Go of Perfectionism!
Many classical musicians have a tendency to be perfectionists (I, myself, am a “recovering perfectionist”!), and that critical inner voice can be a difficult thing to let go. Perfectionism masquerades as something good – and it IS good to have an ideal in mind – but perfectionism is never helpful, because it will never allow you to be “good enough”. Perfectionism robs a broad and all-inclusive vision where anything is possible. It robs you of imagination, flexibility, generosity, and faith. It can also lead to over-practicing and can waste a tremendous amount of time and energy. If you’re always afraid of people judging you, make sure you’re not actually judging others for judging you! Just be grateful that you’re doing your best, and practice moving onto something else BEFORE you’ve “perfected” something when you practice. The less you care about being “perfect”, and the more you accept what you’re doing with love and grace, the more effortlessly your technique will actually fall into place.
- Live (and Play Your Instrument) in the Moment
Playing with wild abandon requires being fully present to the note you’re playing right NOW, at this very moment. Don’t be stuck in the past or attempt to predict the future. If you want an audience to have an exciting, unpredictable experience that leaves them riveted, no matter how many times they may have heard the same piece before – you need to be open to that same spontaneous experience while you’re practicing, too. Don’t try to predict where the music is going to go. Don’t stress over notes that you played before. Be in the now and be open to being surprised – you just might surprise yourself with playing better than you thought possible!
- Free Yourself to Be Yourself
“Just be yourself.” We’ve probably all grown up with someone in our lives telling us to do this; I’ve spent the greater part of my life trying to figure out how! If you have a hard time being yourself, especially in front of others, then you probably need to take some time to think about this and what it means to BE YOU. How could you bring more conscious awareness to your mind-body-self while you’re playing, and let the music mingle with the essence who you really are? Hint: who else would you be, if not you? How could you be anyone else? Isn’t it actually the easiest, most obvious thing in the world…to be YOU?
I hope these ideas help you play with your own sense of wild abandon, and I’d love your feedback. Let me know what works for you!
p.s. If you’re looking to play with wild abandon and you’d like help making it happen with better technique, send me a message. I’d love to chat and offer you some individualized solutions. Be well!
I’d love to get your feedback in the comments below, and please share this post. Thanks for reading!!
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