PIANO: Do you play your instrument, or does your instrument play you?

Hello fellow music makers and shakers!

This is a more reflective rather than instructional post. I hope it will nudge some responses from you, or at least start you thinking.

I am always looking for ways to play more accurately. I remember asking a summer teacher once how I could do this, and she said, "Always have your fingers on the keys." [Wow, that sounds trite.] What she meant was, always be in contact with the key well before you depress is. In other words, be in place before you make sound. 

Recently, I was meditating (literally) on this idea of accuracy and I had some interesting words pop in my head. They were:

The piano is an extension of you

I've heard of some teachers who encourage their students to visualize the keys continuing all the way up their forearms...but this was something different. I had to mull it over for a few days.

What do those meditative words mean? To me, I realized I needed to re-examine my relationship with my instrument. Those meditative words really brought home that my relationship with the piano was momentarily backwards.

Rather than understanding that the piano and I could work together, I was seeing the piano as something to master and dominate. It was me versus the piano.....except that much of the time I felt I could never live up, could never show up enough. I felt my abilities were never good enough. So I would assume it was a technical/mechanical problem and hammer that over and over. I could never play without a litany of mechanical reminders....which would often result in mistakes. I could never ever be happy with my performances. I set out to defeat the piano when in fact it was defeating me. Without knowing it, I was constantly expressing an internal fight with the instrument. I saw us as separate. 

And it was very interesting. The first time I said, "The piano is an extension of you" to myself before playing, I felt intense panic. I felt had nothing of value to say if I was not bossing the piano around. I had been focusing all my energy to the fight with the piano, the losing battle for supremacy and mastery. I had shoved the artistic voice down so habitually, that I was now disconnected from my own-music making. I was getting in my own way.

Letting go of purely mechanical preoccupation is still in progress for me. I believe that as practicing musicians, we continually move between an instinctive wholeness with our instrument and breaking this instinct down in order to learn something new. We develop deftness, subtly, scope this way. But along the way, what is your relationship with your instrument? Are you two simpatico? Have you outgrown your current one? Is it time to let go of driving, of forcing? Is it time to focus on becoming more in-tune with the way your instrument wants to respond? And the hard question....are you letting your frustration for where you think you ought to be create a negative relationship with your instrument?

Let's get some comments going! (or if you prefer, you can send me a private message instead).


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