Role Plays, Anyone? (Issue 1124)

In which we are reminded WHY we (should, really) practice.

I started playing the guitar when I was a 7th grader, learning by listening to recordings and watching people play. Loved it. Couldn’t wait to get my hands on the instrument each day.

I felt excited about “turning pro” as a singer-guitar player so I would practice in the evenings, after I’d finished my homework; when I got bored in school, I would practice by tapping out thumb and finger picking patterns on my leg, all so I could focus on singing without thinking about my fingers.

I began to perform for audiences as a high school sophomore and continued performing in bars, ski lodges, and coffee houses for about eight years. When I played with others, we’d practice a few times a week because (1) there are lots of distractions in ski lodges and bars, so, you need to be almost on automatic so the distractions don’t derail you and (2) if you’re worried about what you’re going to do next, it’s hard to sing or play with any feeling.

I was reminded of these points this week when I watched a short video of cellist Yo-Yo Ma speaking about why he practices. One of the best that’s played the cello, he said:

“The reason that I practice is so that I can transcend it. What I mean is that, if I spend 100% of my brain real estate concentrating on how I’m going to do something, you (the audience) are going to feel… nothing.”

“So, if I can decrease the amount of brain real estate on the playing aspect of the cello, I can focus on thinking what it’s about, and, if I can do that, if I can actually consistently focus on that mentally… that’s when music begins to speak.”

An interesting treat next to the video: A comment from Grammy-winning Mezzo-Soprano Sasha Cooke. She wrote, in part:

“When you’re on a gig, the last thing you want to be doing is counting or finding pitches (or figuring out your voice!). If you’re thinking about that, so is the audience. …If you’ve done your homework and that layer is done, you can really play and find new meanings every time. You can interact with your colleagues, try new ideas, and, also, not be stressed.”

Role plays, anyone?

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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