So, I just finished practicing a little over 3 hours (with a break for snacks for my youngest and me in between). I feel like I accomplished a lot: new phrases memorized, a few more technical “acrobatics” ironed out, and some nice, new phrasing discovered. However, I also spent the majority of that time with panicked, negative commentary running nearly constantly through my head. Normally, I’m a very optimistic person, and when I goof or some aspect of a piece just stubbornly won’t get “fixed” I just shrug my shoulders and tell myself, “next time.” Not today. No, today was, “Is this ever going to go right?”, “Oh no, this could really crash and burn”, “Yikes! How did that happen??”, “What’s wrong with my sound? Oh, yeah, I need to relax and raise my head.” “Stop slouching.” “You’re too tired.” “I wonder if I can do this.” The list goes on. I finished my allotted time by doing some long tones, triple piano, in the highest register — this helps build muscle quickly. When I finished that I decided I should blow some loud low register notes to loosen my lips a little and to keep from getting too tight later on today. Well, I discovered a few things: my sound is always so much better when I’m relaxing and consciously trying to relax (as opposed to trying to play that wickedly hard run just one more time); the noise, the negative commentary, disappeared completely because I knew I was almost finished and could now eat lunch; I enjoyed myself suddenly and was enjoying the nice “buzz” (resonance) coming from my flute with my freshly relaxed embrochure and mindset.
Tomorrow, or maybe even later today just before my student comes, I’m going to experiment with playing with that final relaxation and gentle mindset that I finished playing with this morning. Perhaps, those challenging runs and phrases will feel a lot more easy if I go into them with ease and confidence instead of with a bunch of noise in my head. I think it’s a good exercise for everyone, not just musicians, to approach life with a relaxed mindset than with anxiety and trepidation. I’m not going to allow myself to fall into that downward spiral of negativity while I’m playing again. It’s just a way to set myself up for failure, when I could otherwise set myself up for success. I can do this!