Play Better by Doing Nothing

I'll just apologize in advance, but every post between now and December is going to contain some indication of my love for fall.

I would like to express that I miss foliage. I am also sad to have missed our cranberry harvest this year. (These photos were taken at home last October.) 

Now on to flute-related fun! This post is inspired by an exciting lesson I had with one of my wonderful students.

After she played her piece once, I asked her simply to listen to what she was playing instead of trying to create sound.

"WOW" was my response. I am continuously surprised by how much of a difference this simple mental change can make in one's playing.

Her sound had opened up tremendously-- her tone was more resonant, articulation improved, the ends of notes were less abrupt, and I heard a greater sense of direction in phrases. She also gained a greater sense of presence in the room-- she looked effortless.

During his master class two weeks ago, Jean Ferrandis continuously asked each of us to "stop reading the music." He emphasized that the best musicians never read the music, but instead hear the sound they want. "You do not need to try to make the sound. When you hear the music, the sound will always happen on its own."

Hear the sound you want as you play. It's important to have a sound concept, either from another flutist's recording of a piece, another instrument, a color, a mood... sound can be inspired by anything, and your sound will automatically improve when you play with intention.

Listening is the key to creating an effortless and compelling performance, but it can be difficult to maintain this mentality for an entire piece. We lose focus, start thinking of other things, start inching closer to the notes on the stand, and we lose awareness of ourselves and the outside world.

Beginning a piece by saying: "It is my intention to listen to the music as I play" can make a tremendous difference. It also reduces the pressure we often feel to play perfectly. Our tendency is often to try to create sound-- what a relief it is to know that a great sound comes from doing nothing!

Open your ears to open your sound. It makes a bigger difference than you might realize!

Jolene HarjuComment