Musings of a Musician
Although I know I always have more to learn musically, I thought that I had flute technique figured out. However, recently I discovered a bad habit in my technique: My right pinky. For years I have been playing notes with a disregard that my right pinky is pressed down on the D# key or not.
I thought I had found a "hack" in my younger years as a flute player. It didn't sound any different to me without it down and it was much easier instead of sliding and stretching the pinky from the D# key immediately to the low C. This habit was also so subtle that I got away with it for years. Of course, now I know what I want for Christmas- a D# roller key installed onto my footjoint!
Now that I am more sensitive to sound, I noticed that the right pinky actually does make a difference in tone quality. I can't stop thinking about it. In a way, it reminds me what it's like to begin an instrument. It does not come naturally or feel natural. There's always something to consciously think about.
The worst bad habit that we can develop as musicians is a sense that we already know fundamentals or anything else that might seem basic. Getting "set in our ways" and "going through the motions" is dangerous. We should always keep our sense of wonder and curiosity while accepting that we will never be at full capacity of knowledge.
There is always more out there to learn that we might not even know is out there. Go out there and figure out what you need.
I am naturally anxious and sometimes have spurts of high-energy. This is not a comfortable mixture as a musician. I used to get stomach pains, sweaty palms, shake uncontrollably, and get a dry mouth. When performing, some level of performance anxiety is inevitable for every musician.
Through various experiences, I have learned to live with it and even worry a little when I’m not worried. This can seem counterproductive, but the root of performance anxiety is genuinely caring about your art. I wish to convey raw emotion to the audience and being a little nervous is the best way that I know how to do that.
I have been told to ignore the audience and pretend that you are in your own bubble. But what's the point of performing live? Why shouldn't we just record ourselves and never have to deal with the stage? That's another post for another time.
A few years ago, I attended a weeklong summer workshop specifically for performance anxiety. Instead of coffee, we had tea breaks (much to my dismay). Along with our discussions each day, we meditated for 4 hours straight. While this was personally too long for me, I did learn valuable techniques that week that I still use today.
The final performance came and I didn’t feel anxious. In fact, I was too relaxed to feel the music well enough. While performing with barely any anxiety felt physically good, I looked back at the recording and was not happy with my playing. While I appreciated the camp staff's encouragement, the camp didn't entirely work for my needs. This approach might work well for some people, but I want my performances to be me: a little anxious, very excited, and fueled by coffee.
How I am finding balance between too much relaxation and debilitating performance anxiety: