It’s a really common experience for musicians that their technique is not quite as consistent as they’d like it to be. Is that your experience, too?
Or, perhaps you find that it’s steadily consistent in the practice room, but when you get on stage, everything starts to fall apart. Familiar?
As musicians, we want to have a great technique that allows us to play effortlessly, but we also don’t want too many surprises when we have an audience, and we want a solid technique we can rely on. It can be incredibly frustrating when it doesn’t live up to our expectations!
The good news is that there are real reasons that your technique isn’t consistent – and you can do something about it.
My perspective, though, is a little different from that of most music educators, though, because I look at technical consistency from holistic mind-body perspective. Technical consistency is NOT just about working harder at what you’re doing with your fingers. It’s about what you’re doing with your WHOLE SELF – mind, body, emotions, and Spirit.
[Watch today’s live video, where I talk about the reasons for inconsistency in technique and how to fix it below.]
It’s very easy to unknowingly sabotage our technique with our mindset. As you’re no doubt aware, your mind and body are closely connected and their connection joins them to your technique and to your performance. Everything you think and feel influences the state of your body – even the length of your muscles at a given point in time!
For example, if you’re centered and focused, you’re relaxed and your muscles are longer and more flexible, allowing you to move and play with more ease. However, if you’re in a negative frame of mind, you’ll be more stressed and your muscles will be shorter and more tense. So, your mindset can literally allow you to be playing with muscles of different lengths and the end result will not be the same.
So, if you aren’t paying attention to your mindset and the state of your body when you practice, that’s one reason that your technique might fall apart when you’re suddenly in a completely state of mind and body when you’re onstage in front of a thousand people; because you get better at what you practice – in the state of mind and body that you’ve practiced! (Make sure to watch the video for a fuller explanation of this.]
Here are 3 key ways to help you have more control over your technique so that you can become more consistent in your music-making:
1. Slow Down Your Day
When we’re nervous or stressed, we tend to hurry and rush through things, and the body is in a state of relative tension or compression. Have you ever noticed that? When you notice yourself getting stressed or nervous or upset, take a look at how you do things. You’ll likely notice that you start to speed up your activities and your body feels on edge. Even your speech can be a bit quicker than when you’re relaxed and calm. One of the most important things you can do to help with your technique is to slow yourself down in general. It takes a bit of mental effort, but slowing down, giving yourself just a little bit more reaction time, provides you with a better foundation for self-knowledge, and you can make better choices. Ultimately, this will also change your technique, your practice style, and the quality of the music that flows through your instrument.
2. Learn “Stained-Glass” Practicing
If you’ve been following my work, you’ve probably heard me use the term “stained glass practicing” before. This isn’t a novel or revolutionary technique. Just the opposite, really – it’s a universal technique of effective practicing. I’ve just given it a beautiful name for my teaching, based on watching my mother make gorgeous stained-glass creations, and incorporating the ease of Primal Alexander, a hands-free way to approach the Alexander Technique, into my work. Instead of trying to learn multiple elements of a challenging passage of music all at once, when you use “stained glass” practicing, you treat your practicing as if you were re-creating a stained-glass work of art. You take the entire section apart into tiny pieces and perfect each piece separately, one at a time. This allows you to get comfortable with each element and make a complicated piece EASY before putting it back together again. The last thing you want to do is over-complicate things and overwhelm your brain trying to do too many difficult things at once! You want to practice each element in a context of ease, constantly renewing your release of excess tension (by practicing Constructive Thinking), so that the end result is EASY. This will allow you to play it well with consistently, under any circumstance.
3. Increase Your Self-Awareness and Be Present While You Play
When we play, we’re very often not fully aware and present to our current experience. We’re more focused on stressing over what we just finished playing or looking ahead to the notes that are coming up, and we lack awareness of our mind-body experience of the note we’re playing right now. It’s so important to be self-aware of what your mind and body are doing and experiencing AS you’re experiencing it! Your personal well-being is of the utmost importance and should always be your top priority. There is no reason that you can’t have better technique and still be aware of the present moment. In fact, it very well could be a step that makes you better!
I hope these three ideas help you on the road to re-establishing your technique and its consistency. They’re really only the tip of the iceberg, though, when it comes to getting to the ROOT of the problem of consistency.
I’d love to hear from you if you want to learn more, and understand how to dive into each of these tips with more depth and understanding, in a practical way.
And don’t forget – I’d love your feedback. Let me know what works for you!
p.s. Are you a professional musician? Come join my online masterclass on overcoming the unique challenges professional musicians face, and how to thrive on your career path! Held on March 15, 2020 – just for professional musicians!
For everyone: ask me about my 30-Day Jumpstart Package if you want to learn more about living a joyful musical life with artistic mastery!
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