Whenever you approach your instrument, you are entering into the experience of a relationship. As with any relationship, it takes focused attention to improve the relationship between you and your instrument. As with people, a good relationship with your musical instrument requires:
- respect ~ are you treating this object with due respect, awe, and reverence for its potentiality?
- trust ~ do you trust that it can and will carry out your bidding, to the best of its ability?
- kindness ~ are you contacting it with kindness and a tender touch?
- love ~ do you like your instrument? do you love its essence?
- play ~ do you “play” your instrument, or do you “work” it, like a beast of burden? is your relationship a struggle or a joy?
- compassion ~ can you have compassion for its weaknesses and limitations?
- warmth ~ if you’d like it to produce a warm sound, can you approach it with warmth?
- responsiveness ~ if you’d like the instrument to respond to you, are you responding to it?
- openness ~ are you open to discovering new possibilities and latent potentialities in your instrument and your relationship with it?
- space ~ can you find the boundaries and the necessary space between you and your instrument, so neither of you feels claustrophobic, pressed in, or squelched? do you both have space to “breathe”?
- unhurried time together (“quality time”!) ~ do you give your instrument time to speak? do you listen? are you in a rush to make it do what you want?
- time apart ~ any relationship will suffer from too much time together. Do you take sufficient breaks and time off from the relationship to nurture yourself in other ways that you enjoy?
- gentleness ~ do you handle your instrument with the same kind of loving tenderness and gentleness that you would a newborn child, or do you treat it mindlessly and habitually?
- curiosity and experimentation (Mystery) ~ do you look forward with excitement and anticipation to making new discoveries together?
- acceptance ~ do you expect too much from your instrument? do you wish it were different?
- peacefulness (no forcing) ~ are you at peace with the nature of your instrument? if your instrument is feeling “under the weather”, do you accept that or do you try to force it to change? if you’re not in the best mood, do you force your instrument to do what you want or do you subtly suggest which direction you’d like to go in together?
- partnership ~ is this relationship a partnership where you are working together, or is it a master/slave relationship?
- freedom ~ do you give your instrument the freedom to have its own voice or do you try to impose your ideas on it without giving it space to grow, change, and expand on its own?
- liveliness ~ is this relationship dead or alive? how much awareness is there? how much growth? does it change and move and blossom and improve over time or is it getting worse?
Don’t give up on your instrument until you’re convinced that you are practicing all of these points with plenty of conscious awareness over time and it still isn’t working to your satisfaction. Give it a chance. There are other “fish” in the sea, but are you really feeding the fish you have? Feed this one first. If you give it “all you’ve got”, you’ll be doing yourself a great favor because ALL of your relationships will start to improve when you keep these points in mind, and you’ll never regret the time and energy put into this one.
Of course, separation, divorce, sale, and polygamy are allowed with musical instruments, so feel free to move on – and even keep yours – once you’ve given it your best shot and you know you can find a better relationship elsewhere…! Unlike with many human relationships, it’s likely to be clear when it’s time to find another instrument! 😉
I’d love to hear from you! Do you think about your relationship with your instrument in these terms? What’s new to you? Do you have other suggestions to add? Tell us about your relationship in a comment below – we’d love to hear about your struggles and your advice!
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