I’ve heard and read many artists state that some of the best performances that they have given were ones that can’t even remember. By this, I mean they give into the music/performance and go into a sort of trance, I guess you can say. I’ve seen this in many guitarists that I admire from Eddie Van Halen to Bruce Cockburn and the result is usually a performance that strikes awe in my heart. I say to myself, “how can I play like that?”
Let the music take control:
I’ll be honest, this is something that I still struggle with. Two reasons:
1. I want to remember my performance so I actively think about it while playing. This hinders me because then my mind isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do; play the guitar. The outcome is that I will either have a brain freeze and forget a passage or my playing because sloppy. Either way, it’s a performance that I would rather forget rather than remember.
2. I want it to be perfect so I over think and critique myself as I play. Same result as above.
Play For Yourself:
Why is it that when we practice, we are at our best? If I had a dollar for every time I said, “why can’t I play this now? I was nailing it in practice…” The reason is that when practicing, I’m playing for myself and no one else. It’s just the three of us: Me, my guitar and the music. Throw a crowd in there and the nerves kick in and all of a sudden the piece is harder than expected. Why can’t we play for ourselves when we are in front of people? For me, it’s that I don’t want to come across rude or narcissistic and I fear that the audience is judging me harshly. But these notions are all conjecture and speculation that I have put out there with no real proof that it is true. I’m hindering my ability to play to my full potential.
Let the Music/Life Guide You:
A dear friend of mine Robin Easton (blog here), recently wrote a post suggesting that we should trust our hearts and trust life to teach us in life. This can be applied to our playing as well. Trust our experience, our training and our hearts when we play. Play for yourself and let your heart and music guide you into a great performance. Note, that doesn’t mean that every note will be perfect,it might even be a bit sloppy but some of the best performances that I have ever witnessed weren’t technically great but the passion; the emotion was there. The musician let go and let the music guide him/her into something that I felt privileged to watch. This I suggest to you sounds scary to even me because this requires an act of faith and to embrace the unknown and dare I say relinquishing control. But the idea of control is a myth because we can’t control things like if the PA goes out or if a crying baby is in the audience, etc… Giving in and letting go of the control is probably the biggest act of control that you will do.
Like that old cliche’ I’ve heard over the years: “Play like no one is listening.”
*Note: Thank you Robin for inspiring this post!