Image Credit- alexdecarvalho
Playing an instrument consistently at a high level demands a complex array of skills.
In order to thrive, a performer requires not only:
- understanding of and control over body coordination
- understanding and interpreting of music's language
- creative problem solving during practice
- emotional and philosophical clarity as to the value of the musical experience
... but also:
- constant adjusting to circumstances, "problem solving on the go".
It's that last skill which is trickiest to embody. Performing live music requires not only awareness of what works or doesn't work, but what works best NOW.
Creative problem solving requires not only knowledge and experience, but imagination and quick reactions.
Looking at just the physical level of performing: It's one thing to know you are tight here, or have pain there, or have a slow tongue or slow fingers, and practice to improve those... it's another set of skills to:
- steadily correct errors
- sustain and/or improve all aspects of playing
all the while:
- putting out a high quality, constantly adjusting musical experience over a 40 or 50 year career!
Clarinetists and other wind players, singers, pianists, all musicians... must master not only body coordination, but must also be able to think analytically and abstractly, and to be able to do it "live" as it happens.
To create a beautiful clarinet tone, or flute tone, or cello tone for example, a player must hone many skills and constantly update and refresh.
A beautiful tone requires:
- aesthetic concept (imagining the tone and knowing it when you hear it)
- embouchure (how you form your mouth to play a wind instrument)
- air, breath support
- voicing, meaning the shape of the oral cavity, including the soft palette and throat
- ongoing adjustment of each note to match all others PLUS
- the musical intention of the tone, it's expressive colors, and
- adjusting to the acoustics or intonation or color of the sounds around you.
It's not just a goal, but an ongoing process.
Musicians are “re-creative”, meaning we create new expressions of music, a high quality sensory experience for the listener.
It's not just a job; it's a sort of healing profession. Musicians are "mediums", translating abstract music into a tangible experience in the moment.
So, musicians are translating extremely abstract emotional content through a very abstract language of music notation, and creating a living experience of the music with their bodies.
To enact such subtle control, a musician must be incredibly well grounded in everything they do, from practice to performance.
The next post will be about learning to be grounded in body and mind as you continually strive for more complex and detailed goals.