When was the last time you sat at that piano or keyboard of yours without thinking about what you were doing? Do you find that each and every playing session involves striving to achieve something a certain way as your inner critic has his or her way with you?
If so, you’re not alone. It’s a topic that tends to occasionally surface during discussions between almost every student and myself. When it does, the conversation causes me to self-reflect as well.
It strikes me in a rather amazing way that, in an arena that is meant to be creative, most individuals who engage themselves in the study of music can be among the most self criticizing people on the planet. It’s especially interesting when you consider that your most creative juices generally flow best when you’re thinking the least.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s value in allowing the left brain to decipher, analyze, experiment, etc. That all goes hand in hand with increasing understanding of theory and honing certain skills to greater levels. We’re not here to question that.
Become Temporarily Disconnected
That said, that self critic is often given license to more than his or her fair share. We get trapped… stuck in our heads. Frustration results and, suddenly, what we’re doing isn’t fun anymore.
If this sounds familiar, to any degree, let it serve as a wake up call. There’s another way. Stop. Stop. Stop.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Here’s a suggestion. Just the idea of doing this makes people uncomfortable. But, then again, an idea is a thought which isn’t necessarily your friend. Go to you piano or keyboard (or whatever your instrument), place your hands and fingers on those keys, and allow them to lead. Let them move freely. Don’t make sense of any of it. Don’t force it to conform to what you would ordinarily think sounds good.
Don’t let that self critic get a word in edgewise.
As a kid, I remember owning and having fun with a finger paint set. Have you had that experience? It was like I could do no wrong… because that’s how it was supposed to be. Maybe you did that with crayons. As I write this, I’m recalling my coloring book days, too, how I used to get angry with myself for going outside the lines. Now, I thrive on it.
Knock! Knock! Sorry, Nobody’s Home…
Try giving yourself this gift of “coloring outside the lines” for 60 to 90 seconds a day or so as you let your fingers tickle those ivories. Yes, forget the melody, forget the chords, forget the scales, forget what you “should” be doing. “Finger paint” on those keys. Be like that toddler sitting at those keys for the first time as you observe what happens. Sure, that critic will knock on your door. Just see that and don’t respond.
You’re Out Of Your Mind
As you engage in this kind of activity, you might feel like you’re going out of your mind… like you’re losing it. That’s the ticket. Great job. Don’t worry. All the logical nonsense will be there when you finish.
Play… feel… play… smile… get lost in the mess and love it for what it is.
How thoughtless of you. Congratulations.