As part of these articles, I like to give you some thoughts that might improve your playing or the playing of your students.
This time, we talk about SILENCE, (quietly.)
It has been said that ”music is a picture painted on a canvas of silence.“
That is not always true these days, but is desirable for those going to a concert hall or in a chamber music setting. To some extent this holds true for jazz concerts too.
As a musician, silence is really important too. I once asked a trumpet player on a recording session why he never warmed up. He said, “ I do it at home so as not to bother anyone else, and if I need to play a few notes just to make sure everything is working I use a mute.” You can imagine, and I am sure you have experienced, 50-80 musicians “warming up” at full volume so you can’t even hear yourself.
The professional motto has pretty much always been “be plenty early, sit down, and shut up.” While sounding very nasty, the general idea in any money-making situation, is: there are other people around who need to be considered. The sound person, the stage crew, other musicians, a featured act or any other position you can think of. Each has a job to do and constant blowing by musicians just before a job is insensitive and unnecessary. It is best to keep the ego at home and save your best playing for the performance and not the warm up.
The same goes for practicing. To take the instrument out of the case and start playing your fastest and best licks helps no one, especially you. It is best to start practicing with a minute or two of silence after the instrument is put together, just to get all the thoughts of the day out of your head. Then you really have a chance of listening to the first note you play. As you warm up or start to practice, try starting from that silence (mental as well as physical) . Good times for using this silence are when practicing is not going so well, or if you need to think how you want to play a phrase, or even if you are a little too tired from practicing and need a rest.
The bottom line is that we just don’t leave enough time for silence in music and in our lives. So what happens? We storm through life, never really looking closely at anything, because we are trained to stay active. Only the act of little or no action gives us a chance to really observe. In other words, when we turn off our internal dialog and let our unconscious mind do its work unimpeded, we have a better chance of success.
It is very difficult to talk and listen at the same time. If we can avoid doing this, we learn more about the other person as well as about ourselves.
Take a moment to think how silence can help you in your life.
Until the next Mike's Musings, here's wishing you all the best, and Happy New Year 2014!
For more articles and information on mouthpiece selection, please visit my website at SaxandClarinetMouthpeces.Com.