#21 - Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

The Zen Behind the Zoom in Irish Flute

Welcome you all, old and new members, to another chapter of Dante's...oops, I mean Skip's Tips. Many of you know that I sometimes do very technique-oriented tips, and sometimes very Zen tips. This is a Zen tip. Or, as I like to call it, the Zen behind the Zoom.

This will be perhaps the shortest but most important tip that I could pass along. Work on developing the ability to listen to your playing as if you were in the audience. Many problems with speeding up, losing rhythm, or being otherwise dysfunctional while playing tunes has its roots in the player's failure to listen to what they are playing from an audience's perspective.

It is of paramount importance to have the tune you're playing "in your head" but remember that is NOT what the listeners hear. They hear the tones you play, they cannot read your thoughts. It is your job to transmit your thoughts via the notes you're playing to the audience. In time, you will find that the music, no matter how fast the tempo, is slower than you think it is. The slight delay between forming your thoughts and presenting your thoughts as notes is the critical time frame in which music takes place.

As I play, here's what's going on.

  1. I have the tune I want to play in my head.
  2. I have faith in the techniques that I've practiced, and my ability to play them at the moment.
  3. I don't try to physically do anything. My mind lets my body perform the task at hand automatically.
  4. I step away and monitor what is going on to make sure that is what I want it to sound like. I try to be aware of everything happening around me (session, band, audience, what should I play next, etc.) as I'm playing.
  5. I'm loaded. It helps...me.

I know this sounds wacky as does so much of the content in these tips, just bear with me. I truly believe that once you're in control of the instrument and the tune, then relaxation and listening while playing is the next essential step. I've always thought that music is 90% mental and the rest is in your head. ;-)

This is not a tip where I can easily give a suggested exercise. The intent of this tip is to raise your awareness of the importance in listening to the notes you're playing through the air. After all, you should be willing to listen to what you're putting the rest of the room through...