|Weekly Reflections on Life and Music|
o 90% mental
o 9% air
o 1% physical
— Attributed to a number of people, most often Bill Adam
When it comes right down to it, this is what the Inner Game of Music is truly all about. It is the mental side of playing music. It attitude. It is mindfulness. It is how we think and act out what we are thinking- or not thinking. I am not sure I like that idea. It means that things like building endurance or a perfect embouchure, the right mouthpiece or instrument, or heavy caps aren’t as important as we like to think they are. They are attempts at short-circuiting the process of becoming a musician.
Not to disregard the physical side. (More on that next week.) That is real and does impact the way we play. But it is the more effective use of our energy through the mental that in the long run as the most positive impact on what we are doing. Why might that be? Here’s a thought:
We also know a great deal about the many ways the brain can impact our actions, our physical health, how our bodies function. While much of it is a mystery, the effects have been seen in many studies.
This also shows why that sometimes the tiredness we feel after a period of playing is perhaps even more mentally caused than physical. That’s a lot of energy going out when we are playing. For example, here are some things that are regular actions of the “mental” that impact what we do:
◆ How we practice- we have to think about that as we do it.
⁃ Slow, fast, articulation, slurs, etc
◆ Hearing the music and notes in our head as we play.
⁃ I am fairly sure that the best way to learn to play is to hear the notes in your head before you play. This is especially true of the upper register, but applies equally to the whole staff.
◆ What we think of our abilities and how far we believe we can go
⁃ I know I can’t play that run. I am unable to memorize. I am crappy.
◆ Self 1 criticizing or Self 2 wanting to just do it
⁃ This goes beyond the previous one. This happens in the middle of a performance and we get distracted. “I just missed the note! OMG! I’ll never get it,” Meanwhile I didn’t get the next three measures because I got lost. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
⁃ It takes concentration and mental effort to memorize. I have not been willing to spent the time or take the effort. And that does impact my playing. (I also tell myself I can’t do it.)
◆ Listening to ourselves and others.
⁃ I have to pay attention when listening. Engage the brain!
All that takes mental activity. The more difficult it is, the more we are distracted and the harder we have to work- and playing becomes more difficult. Part of it is what is the story we are telling ourselves about ourselves? What is it we believe about our abilities? But it is also about being intentional about taking care of our brains- the mental activities that can strengthen what we do with the trumpet. So I Googled (always a good place to start) “How do we train the brain to be more efficient?” and I got some interesting thoughts from an article on Entrepreneur.com. Here are their eight ways to improve brain power (the ideas are from the article. The thoughts about them are mine) (Link):
2. Drink coffee.
3. Get some sunlight.
4. Build strong connections.
6. Sleep well.
7. Eat well.
8. Play Tetris.
I would add a couple other things:
◆ Journaling can be a great way to get in touch and keep in touch with what is going on in your own head.
◆ Read more than you watch TV.
◆ Listen to music more than you watch TV.
If I want to be a better trumpet player, I guess I need to take care of the mental. Losing my mental sharpness will not have a good result in my music.