ArT of the Piano: Time to Play
I love the French phrase for "I play piano"......"Je joue du piano." Literally, "I play of the piano" or "I play from the piano." Since French is the language of love, I'll take some poetic license and rearrange to:
This phrase implies that the act of playing an instrument is lighthearted. Creating art that involves the inner child, a sense of joy and ease.
It's so easy to play as kids. Kids laugh 300 times a day, as opposed to adults who laugh (maybe) 17 times. Everything is a game. I love using games as learning tools when teaching kids....I see them absorb the information best while playing.
So.....as adults, how can we incorporate a sense of "play" during our practice and still feel we're being productive? We can answer this psychologically or practically. I'll try to touch on both.
One way is to laugh at ourselves more. When we make a mistake and it sounds terrible. When we completely fumble a technical passage. When we were trying so hard to make a beautiful phrase and it sounds like complete arse. Playing our instruments is not a matter of life or death...there is no kitten or puppy hooked up to an electroshock machine if we hit a wrong note.
Laughing boosts seratonin levels and increases your positive mental state. Our brains absorb information correctly only when we are in a positive state of relaxation, calm, joy. Forget the tortured artist, it turns out the musician's brain works best when we relax, when we have fun with what we do. If you laugh at your mistakes, you have a chance not only to learn from your brain gap (ie why the mistake happened) BUT ALSO.....the chance to put yourself in a better frame of mind so you can absorb the correction.
I am sure you can think of more strategies, but here are just a few that help me lighten my mood when I am too serious. Give yourself time to play something just for you. Even 5 minutes to figure out your favorite guilty pleasure pop song by ear makes a huge difference. Have fun scrambling your "real work." Simplify hard passages so they become effortless---leave out as many notes as you want. Then add the rest of the notes in gradually. Play something way too slow or way too fast just to see how funny it sounds. Play way toooo loud. Have fun playing as loudly and unmusically as you can. Change the mode of every phrase (ie make all the major chords minor and and all the minor chords major....this one cracks me up. I love the tasteless Piccardi third).
Being serious does not automatically mean being productive. We can be focused AND lighthearted. We perform to bring joy and a positive experience to others....why not give ourselves the same in the process?