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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    I feel I’m mentally challenged when playing the piano . I’m ok when just practicing with no goal, but when it comes to recording or playing for someone, my mind goes all over the place, and I can’t concentrate enough on my playing, or sometimes I’m concentrating too much and just can’t get a feel. Even parts I never get wrong when practicising, start going wrong.

    What do you think about when you’re playing? I found I have to force myself to breathe as I tend to hold my breath. Do you clear your mind?
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Senior Member Captainnumber36's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    I feel I’m mentally challenged when playing the piano . I’m ok when just practicing with no goal, but when it comes to recording or playing for someone, my mind goes all over the place, and I can’t concentrate enough on my playing, or sometimes I’m concentrating too much and just can’t get a feel. Even parts I never get wrong when practicising, start going wrong.

    What do you think about when you’re playing? I found I have to force myself to breathe as I tend to hold my breath. Do you clear your mind?
    I'm trying to figure that out for myself too. I think you should get to the place where during a performance you become an engaged audience member just letting your mind wander with the music.

    This takes great muscle memory of the composition and good rehearsal. You'll snap back into it if you make a mistake, you just need to know how to cover it up when it happens.

    I put a lot of pressure on myself to not make note mistakes live, I feel that is an ultimate goal and the exception performances are when the dynamics and everything clicks as well.

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    What do you think about when you’re playing? I found I have to force myself to breathe as I tend to hold my breath. Do you clear your mind?
    Many meditation styles emphasise the importance of breathing to clear the mind. Wind players are forced to consider breathing as part of the music. Other people should too. András Schiff in Pianist Magazine (No.76, Feb-March 2014) said


    “For me, it is breathing that is vital. You must breathe naturally, like a singer. Pianists and string players often tend to forget the necessity of breathing and they can become very tense; then they get back pains and wrist pains and so on. Usually it can be sorted out through the breathing.”

    It's down to the standard advice - relax, avoid tension and feel the music. Breathing is part of that.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Thanks. I’ll start with paying more attention to the breathing. That might be where the downward spiral begins, when I tense up and forget to breathe properly.
    Last edited by Phil loves classical; Nov-07-2017 at 13:22.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    Thanks. I’ll start with paying more attention to the breathing. That might be where the downward spiral begins, when I tense up and forget to breathe properly.
    I had my equivalent trouble with bow shake - what put it right in the end was simply more experience of having to play in public and/or with other (folk) musicians.

    En route, when I was still taking lessons in classical violin, I found it helpful to imagine a story in my mind that the (classical) music was illustrating, each part of it. Then I would 'play the video' of the story in my head as I performed and it distracted me sufficiently from the nervous surroundings. Anything that enables you to 'live' the music & be absorbed in it, rather than being self-conscious, will help, I find.
    Last edited by Ingélou; Nov-07-2017 at 13:28.
    ~ Mollie ~
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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingélou View Post
    I had my equivalent trouble with bow shake - what put it right in the end was simply more experience of having to play in public and/or with other (folk) musicians.

    En route, when I was still taking lessons in classical violin, I found it helpful to imagine a story in my mind that the (classical) music was illustrating, each part of it. Then I would 'play the video' of the story in my head as I performed and it distracted me sufficiently from the nervous surroundings. Anything that enables you to 'live' the music & be absorbed in it, rather than being self-conscious, will help, I find.
    Thanks. I’ll try that. Sometimes I expect myself to work like a machine, when I press the “on” button, which works at the beginning for a bit, but in the longer stretches it just doesn’t work that way
    Last edited by Phil loves classical; Nov-07-2017 at 23:02.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Yes, it is quite obvious for every instrument players in the beginning. Some people will get rid of that anxiety very easily and few people do lot of struggle to achieve. Don't get so worried, be calm, be perfect with the lyrics before the performance. You don't bother about the cheers of the audience, close your eyes and deeply involve in the music and continue your play. There will be some rules to perform on the stage and the audience may expect the same from you. If you are not comfortable in managing the rules, no issues and execute it in your own style. Some kind of meditations or the breathing exercises may also help you in managing the anxiety. If you are thorough in the notes, then nothing can stop you. Be confident and move forward, you can definitely make it happen.

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    I do what Ingélou said. I imagine a story unfolding as I play, no matter if I'm playing piano or violin, classical or folk/jazz. I either imagine a story or I pretend to be the composer. I actually found that when I pretended to be the composer, I played this one piece CLOSE to absolute perfection. Of course, I was only practicing and not performing. But I try to make up some new story each time I play through, that way, while the music isn't, the story behind it is fresh.
    You can also research why the composer composed a particular piece, and imagine that. For example, Rachmaninoff composed Prelude No.2, Op.3 in C-Sharp Minor after a dream where he saw a casket. The quickening pace represents him walking faster toward it. The crazy part is when he started running. The loud octaves are when he opened the casket, and, much to his own horror, saw himself inside. That makes for an interesting story to play out in your mind as you're performing the piece.
    Another thing maybe some musicians don't do, is deliberately work on a few measures during one practice session, instead of playing it as if you're performing. I, personally, do both. Some of my teachers told me to play through, others taught deliberate practice, but I prefer to work on a few measures of a piece, move on to another piece, go back to the first, and play it through. I find that for me, that gets more done than doing only one of the two. You kind of have to be prepared for some random informal performance, like when your family invites people over, and they randomly ask you to play something. There are some musicians who believe that you should only do deliberate practice, even when you're preparing for a performance. But then what happens when the student is at their recital? If you don't play through the piece during each practice session, you won't be able to perform as well. However, wih deliberate practice, you're able to perfect each measure carefully, while also having safe places to start at if you happen to lose your place during a performance. That's my two cents' worth, anyway.
    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by Jeanette Townsend; Jan-11-2019 at 00:19.

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    What you seem to be describing sound like layers of anxiety. When you are practicing alone, it's easy to keep your focus as you are in your comfort zone. When the stakes are higher, your anxiety grows as well. This is pretty normal for most performers. The issue may be the security of your subconscious knowledge of the piece. This you can test by checking if you have a mental image of all the sounds for the piece in your head. If you have the sounds clearly heard in your imagination, you will be pretty safe. It may just be a matter of using that mental image to guide your fingers to the correct keys. If there are weak spots in your ability to pre-hear the sounds, the slightest worry or distraction will be able to cause a problem in performance. As you well know, one little mess-up will trigger more in a moment. That's when we pianists start thinking about transferring our musical ambitions to the Triangle!

    The secret to thoroughly learning a new piece or reviving old repertoire is to make each note that you process (seeing it, playing it then hearing it) as important as possible. Everyone has experienced a brief moment that was so powerful - either positive or negative) that it can be remembered for the rest of our lives. The brain will remember the strongest signal for the longest time, so try to make each action/sound you make as mentally powerful as possible. This will bring security, and you should soon realize that your focus and confidence is getting stronger every day. Once your subconscious feels secure, you can experiment with using your mental guidance system to imagine the most beautigul concept of the piece. With a certain amout of pracice to consolidate your concept, and you feel it's the best you can imagine right now, try turning your concept into a story. You will know it very well by this stage, and a story will give your conscious mind something to support your concept instead of getting into a panic and destroying the quality of performance you have achieved. We get our best results from thinking from the end so may you always play beautifully!

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