Drew Henderson on Consistency and Accuracy in Performance
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“We forgive ourselves things alone that we don’t forgive ourselves in performance.”
When we play for people or for video, we are often hyper-aware of every flubbed note, squeak, and buzz. Every imperfection seems to scream.
Then, reflecting on these, we judge our performance wanting. We feel we could have done it better.
But these same imperfections were there in practice, while we were alone at home. Here, however, we let them pass.
We lower our standards and expectations in practice, then raise them for performance. This double standard is not entirely fair to ourselves, but is common.
If we want better performances, we need to hold performance standards in daily practice. At least part of the time. We need to practice with the same heightened awareness we will have in front of people.
For example, we can practice our pieces to performance standards. Even if this means playing more slowly.
Scales and arpeggio patterns? We can also practice these with this same critical ear and demand of excellence.
When we do, we raise the level of our playing. We increase the challenge, and this builds our skills faster. Our playing becomes more “anti-fragile,” growing stronger as the pressure increases.
We can train our ears and attention to stay present and alert. And in doing so, every minute of practice becomes electrically charged. This is far more effective than rote repetition and mind-wandering.
Then, when we do play for others or video ourselves, we are more used to this state of awareness. We have practiced focusing on what matters. So our inner dialog quiets and we experience less anxiety.
We become more comfortable and enjoy performing more. We get better results and feel better about our playing afterward.
There is no downside and only upside to spending at least part of our practice time playing as if we were performing. This brings our best selves and demands the top skill we can muster. It is a stress-test that reduces stress.
Hi, I’m Allen Mathews.
I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
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These warm-up and stretching exercises are helping me a lot! Because I’m a software developer I have to stay 8 hours typing on a computer keyboard, so I use my hands a lot during the day. At night, when I have some time to practice the guitar my hands and arms are usually in pain because they have been working a lot during the day, but I’ve found that doing the warm-up/stretching exercises in The Woodshed releases me from this pain and I’m then able to practice after doing them.
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~ Ulysses Alexandre Alves
-Ulysses Alexandre Alves
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