Feelings are scary. Aren’t they, my Students?
When I was younger, I loved to release my emotion through my playing. When I felt angry, I went to the piano. I would choose something powerful and dramatic (the more “forte” the better). I banged my anger out of that piano. I felt it to the core, inside me, through the instrument. The sound. The vibration. The aura. It was all good.
When I felt tremendously sad, I went to the piano as well. I felt deeply that sadness, that pain inside me, through me, and channeled that to the piano, under my fingers, in my body. Me and the piano were one. It was as if I were talking to her (or him? I don’t know). She shared my pain. She felt me, she understood me. She heard me. And I heard her. She soothed me. Tears streamed down on my face. The emotion was released.
So yes, my Students, sometimes when we play, we feel fear. Fear of making mistakes, fear of playing badly, fear of how others think about our playing and rejecting us/it. Or sometimes we feel angry. About things in life. Or even about our own playing. “Why can’t I play better than this? I was doing fine at home!” Or something or someone is hurting you inside. We all feel one or the other, or even a mixture of these in our playing sometimes. What should we do? Should we avoid our feelings? Just feel numb about ourselves and our playing, our music? Absolutely not.
Simply let it happen.
Feel it to the core.
Face it. Walk through it. Walk past it.
I know it is scary. And taking the first step requires a lot of courage. I know you have already taken the first step, good for you! Now it is the matter of walking through it, not around it. When you are scared during your playing, you keep going. Feel your fear. Let it happen. Do not stop. When you are crossing the street with traffic coming up, do you just stop in the middle of the crossing and let the car hit you right there? No, you are afraid the car might hit you so you keep crossing. That is what you do when you feel scared during your playing. You keep playing. Sometimes you make mistakes in the process of going through a piece. Do you stop and amend it, going back and forth many a times to fix it? No, you don’t! When you are walking on the street, you feet got tangled up and you tripped. You even fell on the ground. What do you do? Do you reverse your way and go back and walk through where you tripped again, again and again? No, you don’t. You rather walk past it, perhaps even as fast as you possibly could, to avoid anyone seeing it. Then you even pretend nothing happened. You lift your heads up and keep walking boldly. That’s exactly what you should do when you play a mistake in your playing. Don’t amend it right there. You do that in your practice. Playing through it needs another mentality. When you make a mistake, don’t panic. Keep your head up and keep playing through it. Pretend nothing happened (can you?). Keep calm. Then more importantly, rather than fixing the mistake, you play even more beautifully after that mistake. Because that’s where the audience’s focus is. And that’s where you the player’s focus should be.
I am not saying making mistakes is okay. But when you play for me, in a performance, in the exam, it is about carrying on. It’s just life. Deal with it and keep going. It is the mistake that improves us. I don’t think there is one pianist in the whole wide world who never ever makes mistakes in his/her entire life, even the big-shot ones in the performance. So why do you think you are better than them?
Playing the piano requires courage, patience, perseverance and intelligence, on top of passion, effort, and focus. The courage part also includes your vulnerability, to feel things you rather not feel at times. Do you have these qualities, my Students?
If you haven’t had them yet, build them. Acquire them. In fact, I believe you have the little seeds of them inside you, and you just haven’t made time to develop them. Water them and let them grow. Make them blossom inside you, out of you. Let me see the flowers and enjoy them. I know they must be beautiful and pleasant to watch. To listen to.