Practice vs Performance

02005-12-27 | Performance, Philosophy | 0 comments

When we practice we often concentrate on individual aspects or fragments of a performance. Fingering, sound-production, volume/dynamics, melody, rhythm are all aspects of a performance that can be practiced independently. Concentrating on one of these aspects will have wonderful results and is in fact essential for improving, but I think that concentration is not good for performing music.

When we concentrate on the flow of the melody, the rhythm will suffer and we might place notes too far in front of or behind the beat. When we concentrate on the rhythm we might place the notes exactly on the beat, but the melody will lack flow. When we concentrate on producing sound (right hand for most people), we might lose sight of the fingering (left hand). In other words, while fragmentation is a great way to isolate and practice a piece of music – or general aspects of posture, fingering, sound-production, volume/dynamics etc. – for a performance these fragments have to join to form one single element: the music.

In order for music to flow naturally, we have to allow the mind to flow and trust that it will bring attention to any single element that requires it. During a performance mind might flow like this:

the melody is a little behind the beat… nice, but don’t fall behind… the lights are hot in the back of my neck… right hand is a little sweaty… keep it steady – don’t listen to Davo (sounds like he’s doing sevens against the six)… ah, Jon is starting to improvise: don’t go back to the melody now… the second string sounds a little off – is it me or the violin… or both…

You see, concentrating on any one aspect of the performance would inhibit the flow of mind and that might get us stuck and when we get stuck even for a moment we won’t respond to the needs that are arising. Getting stuck is the worst that can happen in a performance. Two places we certainly do not want to get stuck in are: what I just played was so great AND what I just played really sucked! Both thoughts have the same result – the flow of music is impeded and the very next phrase will indeed suck…

By no means is this limited to music. When you cook and concentrate too much on one item, you’ll burn another… and I am sure we will find many more examples…

Also see THIS and Gut Brain.


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