About a year ago, I decided that I needed some sort of motivation to accomplish something new every week, specifically with etudes. I decided that I wanted to record one video every week with the goal to share it online. I recorded and shared one etude video as a result of this promise to myself. (This one!) Fast forward to January, when the Etude of the Week group on Facebook began a new book, Altes 26 Selected Studies for Flute. I decided to challenge myself and follow along!
The biggest challenge in recording these etudes in full is remaining focused and clear-headed to avoid slip-ups, but not forgetting to take musical risks to make for a more compelling performance. In the past six weeks, I've made several important discoveries about the process of recording myself and the weekly challenge of hitting the share button.
Self-Talk Determines the outcome
The number one discovery I've made in determining whether or not I'll complete a good performance in one take is 100% related to mind-chatter.
Here are some of the things I've said to myself that led to a less-than-desirable outcome while recording:
- Wait, where am I going to breathe?
- I'm going to run out of air before the end of this phrase.
- I hope those low notes come out this time.
- Here comes that spot that I might not get.
- I should've prepared this next section a little more.
- I forgot to eat lunch!
- I wonder if the next etude in this book is more fun.
Self-doubt and mind-wandering have not yet served me well. To remedy myself before the next take, I look at any moment where I doubted my preparation and spend considerable time planning and practicing. When I'm ready to record again, I turn to positive self-talk.
The following are things I've said to myself before and during my best takes:
- This is the take where I will be focused.
- I am completely prepared.
- I am confident to give a musical performance.
- I can remember to move while breathing.
- Before a difficult moment: Soften, stand, and just play.
- When beginning to feel anxious: My feet can go back to feeling grounded.
You Need To Be Brave
More difficult than the etudes themselves is sharing them on the internet. I've challenged myself to not only share them on the very supportive Facebook group, but also on YouTube for anyone to watch. The commitment to sharing recordings has forced the perfectionist in me to let go and feel courageous enough to hit publish. I absolutely suffer with the idea that I am not good enough to share anything I produce with the world, and I must wait for special permission to be granted by some authority before I am allowed to share anything. This project has turned ruthless courage into a weekly requirement, and that has led to some really important and exciting growth. (If this resonates with you, I highly recommend reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown!)
I Still Judge Myself Once I Hit Publish
I re-watch my videos once I hit publish with a critical eye and feel a little bit of misery about things that could be better, along with a twinge of fear that my permission-to-share-videos will be revoked. (Really. Is someone in charge of that??) Then, I let it go and move on to the improvement phase. Watching my completed performances has motivated me to make very specific changes to improve for the next video. For example, if my articulation was unclear this week, I will spend more time practicing breath accents. Did I take too long to breathe and interrupt long phrases? I'll spend more time looking at the bigger picture next time. I can begin to see different improvements from one video to the next, and that has been an exciting result of this project so far.
So What Have I Learned?
In short, it's an exercise in careful preparation, focus, positivity, and courage.
In the first weeks, I would blindly turn the camera on and hope for the best. Now, I take more time to prepare and work on a plan for breath marks, phrasing, and technical challenges.
Feeling prepared helps me focus my thoughts and be in the present moment, and it takes constant awareness to feel the insecurities as they arise and turn them into positive statements.
My desire to improve after submitting a video is far greater than when I do not release a video of myself into the world. Having clear goals and a supportive group has given me great motivation to improve!