electric guitarist playing freely“At each concert, music is created anew, according to a performer’s imagination.”
The Musician’s Way,
p. 112

Whenever we perform, we aim for that “in-the-moment” feeling.

We strive to immerse ourselves and our listeners in the emotion of the music.

Yet although we prize creative freedom on stage, we also need to be consistently accurate.

How can we unite spontaneous creativity with technical security? Here are four ways.

Unite Spontaneous Creativity with Technical Precision

1. Practice Spontaneity

If our goal is to perform with spontaneous emotion, we need to emphasize free expression in the practice room. Still, because practice involves repetition, staleness can easily creep in.

One way to vaccinate against staleness is to playfully vary any repetition. For instance, after one clean run of solo passage, upon repeating it, we might tweak our tone and timing. In that way, we open ourselves to impromptu insights.

“Always try to find variety,” urged cellist Pablo Casals; “it is the secret of music.” (Casals and the Art of Interpretation, p. 161)

2. Feel Every Phrase

Although heartfelt expression is our goal, in practice, many tasks are head-driven: we analyze problems, test solutions, etc. The trick is to make the problem-solving process as emotionally vibrant as it is intellectually engaging.

So let’s bring a living quality to every sound we make, even when we’re unraveling technical snags. In so doing, our technical command serves our expressive notions.

Then, on stage, our practice habits empower us to give ourselves over to the music.

“Always try to find variety; it is the secret of music.” -Pablo Casals

3. Embrace Possibility

A mind that’s open to expressive possibilities will find creative potential in any music.

For that reason, I ceaselessly look for new ways to shape the music I play. I never stop exploring, so I discover freshness everywhere.

In The Art of Possibility, the authors write that when we forsake this sort of open mindset, we constrict into a sense of scarcity – we stop seeing options and opportunities. But when we embrace possibility, there’s no limit to what we might come up with.

“A mind that’s open to expressive possibilities will find creative potential in any music.” -Gerald Klickstein

4. Savor the Moment

Music exists in time – it unfolds in the present and then contracts into the past.The Musician's Way book cover

When we savor the temporality of our art, we stop trying to over-control the future and, instead, celebrate each moment, whatever it brings.

This savoring quality is especially crucial when we practice or perform repertoire that we’ve known for ages.

Singer Tony Bennett encapsulated this concept in a 2005 interview. Speaking of his signature song, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, he said, “That song made me a world citizen. And when I do it, it always feels like the first time.”

See Parts I & II of The Musician’s Way for diverse ways to infuse your music making with spontaneity and insight.

Related posts
Beautiful repetition
Generating emotional depth
Playful practice
Practicing performance
The zing of adrenaline

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © Lars Christensen, licensed from Shutterstock.com