Monday, February 20, 2012


more on habit

Depending on the natural inclination and passion of the student, keeping what's naturally expressive is important in the midst of working on improving technique. A habit can seem 'natural' when in reality it is a reflex or a reaction to a set of certain physical-psychological balances. Then during the repetition of the action, can turn into a 'hardened' habit which sometimes people call their 'second' nature.

A fall back situation, (habitual- comfort- zone) are often seen and felt as 'second' nature. A natural inclination towards needing and/or wanting to express oneself, (on an instrument and in other areas of life probably as well), most often will not get lost while working on refining and developing more technical control. BUT, if the student has a teacher that has an extremely tight and narrow idea of how an instrument or piece 'should' be played, it can interfere with the natural talent and become very destructive to the student who needs to express themselves personally in their music making.

This is why, in my view, working on technique needs to have at least the prime element of music involved which is movement. Not just metronomic mono rhythm, but fluid directional movement. Then the expressive player can channel the energy into that movement and find it's musical substance even if the 'spirit' of the exercise is on the drier side. It can still have grace, momentum, vibrancy and other qualities. That is why I often think of being an actor that has many modes of behavior when I play. When doing that, my playing always is energized whether it is an Arban's study, a dry staccato Stravinsky note, an excerpt or a prayer. It's all in the connection.

Monday, February 13, 2012


To change or even slightly alter deep ingrained habits, takes real determination and constant vigilance. It is a whole process and can be expedited by having a notebook of what you want to change written down in it and then remembering to look at it before each practice session. This will help. The important thing to realize is that what we do automatically has become unconscious or semi-conscious. With each action there is a certain speed that is going on. If we alter our speeds, usually be slowing down and deliberately thinking about what we are doing and what we want to accomplish, can help assist in retraining our systems towards our desired goal.

This takes time and should not be rushed. If it is approached daily, with thoughtfulness and care, it will change quicker than trying to force it at a faster speed than it wants to go. Being consistent and regular with our efforts is the key.

A great mentor of mine used to say, "Go slow to go fast." It is true. If we do not, we will eventually have to spend time undoing the new not so great habits we developed trying to improve the old ones we were trying to change.

A habit has attached to it a physical, a mental, and many times an emotional component. That is why taking our time in changing old ways is so important. There is never just one thing. One thing is always attached to other things. With attentive practice, one will start to see much. It is well worth the investment of time accompanied by a supportive attitude to change habits that block our desired goal.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Looking at What is Control

some thoughts

When someone is 'out of control,' what are the characteristics emotionally, mentally, verbally, physically? If someone is drunk or impaired in some way behind the wheel of a car, that person presents a danger and a hazard to others being on the road driving. They weave in and out of their lane, speed up or slow down at odd and strange times, don't obey the traffic signals and on and on.
So if someone is out of control in their playing, what does that mean? Are they a danger or a threat to other musicians in the ensemble? Do they not 'obey' the musically notations and do random things and act in their own timings regardless of what it says on the page? Do they not have the ability to hold notes steady and place their articulations evenly? Are they limited in their dynamic contrasts? If these are signs of being out of control, what are the causes?

Perhaps a very important question to ask is "What is controlling the person?"

There is an interesting relationship between concentrate, center and control. If someone is not in a stable place in themselves, or they can't find their 'center,' control can be challenging. If a person is unable to concentrate, (act on center), then loosing ones place in the music and other things can start to go awry.

Control is being able to do what we need to do, in the way we want to do it, when we want to do it (or have to do it in the way someone else wants us to do it).

Control is having the ability to do something effectively.

Control has a spectrum of skill or lack there of.

Control is a harmonious relationship between our mind and body where they both work in synchrony with each other. (Coordination is an important ingredient in having control).

Control is being able to stop or go when we want or need to.

Control is in the transitions.

Control is not a small little tight box with hardly any room to breathe.

Control is not limited to certain dynamic contrasts or tone colors.

Control is having flexibility to change and move beyond our comfort zones when needed.

Control is conscious will in our actions that can be used in the attainment of our pursuits.

Having control is being be able to function with quality and to perform actions in accordance to what is called for in any given situation.

Study the relationship between skill and control. Can you have skill without control? Don't think so!

Think of many situations that call for control. To control our temper. To control our eating and drinking. To be in control of a situation.

To NOT control our friends or colleagues.

Control is having command over voluntary and involuntary systems. (Having control over our bladder is a good example)

If having control becomes a prison, then where does freedom come into it? Having freedom to be able to do, is this control?

If control becomes a musical concept and school of playing, is it attuned to the essence of the music? The finest control is to be open to the essence of the music beyond our biases and then have the assembly, musically and technically, to deliver it. This is where training physically, mentally and emotionally are important. All three are important because just having physical expertise will not bring the music to life. A person typing someone else's poetry does not make them a poet.