Oud diary III – performance variables?

19/10/2015 § Leave a comment

For this diary entry I am going to depart from the pursuit of how things are going with my two main pieces, sufficed to say that things are still improving. I have now set up lessons to begin [or re-begin] oud for this Autumn as of this coming Saturday, and I’ll be utilising the guidelines I set myself in part II till then. But for this part I am not concerned so much with melodic development but psychological understanding of the non-music related variables which can affect our performance.

This all started because on Saturday morning I sat down to practice the Bashir piece and noticed, after the normal warming-up procedure, that I just wasn’t hitting notes properly. This continued for a while till I had stop and analyse what was going on, what was different, why was I not playing as well, or at least as competently, as I normally would? I was in the same environment, my flat, the view was the same, no-one was in the flat who wasn’t there, the only difference was that it was morning.

Normally I am used to playing in the evening, mostly by candlelight, it’s dark outside and it’s a familiar and comfortable atmosphere. However, with daylight streaming in through the large windows I felt more exposed, the atmosphere in the room was really something quite different. It was projected outwards rather than inwards. Just as one’s vision is more heightened in daylight, I felt that my errors in playing were highlighted, more noticeable, out in the open.

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This just doesn’t go for the difference between morning and evening. There are so many other variables that can affect out performance as well: being in someone else’s house, different people being in the room, different visual surroundings, different acoustics. Playing an instrument can be quite a personal display of emotion and understanding, and tiny variables can have big effects on how we play things.

It’s all a psychological battle, it seems. None of these variables really affect how we physically are playing the instrument but they do affect our perception of ourselves. The best playing is done when the player is unaffected by these outside influences and concentrate solely on the playing [or “internalisation” as it can be called], not noticing anything different outside.

The solution to this? I don’t think it’s possible for me to attempt to provide a solution so early on after making this observation, it’s enough for now, I feel, that it has been noted. But performance experience must surely be a contributing factor to changing this. If one is sitting in one’s flat all the time playing, and then brings the instrument into a different unfamiliar environment one will of course feel different, and these feelings will affect how we play. Also there are studies to show that sleeping patterns and bodyclock affect one’s performance and that it’s better to be an “early bird” than a “night owl” when it comes to performing well during the daytime. Night owls do perform as well as early birds [think of jazz musicians] but mostly at night. 

For now I am not so much interested on changing my weekend sleeping schedule as in noting the variables than contribute to performance change. It’s worth gaining a lot of experience in this area, which is why practice and ensemble performance, I feel, should be such an important part of term 2 this year – or earlier should appropriate opportunity arise.

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