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12 Reasons for Mindful Musically Expressive Practice

Part 1 ~ Reasons 1-4

Why does deliberate, detailed, deep, mindful and musical practice at first seem like a “slow” way to practice? Because it does slow us down! Being mindful and expressive with our music takes us more deeply into our practice, flute playing, music and our self. There are many levels, depths and mysteries to great music. Unless we slow down, reflect, and make educated, meaningful choices in our practice, we will miss out on so much. What is the meaning of deliberate? Deliberate, done consciously and intentionally, to liberate, be free. This kind of deep practice done in a mind - full and musically expressive way will free you and the music. How do we practice in a conscious way with attention to detail, refined awareness, focused intention, educated knowledge and wit with play, passion and love?

Here are 12 reasons to slow down, refine, attend to and enjoy your practice and playing.

1. To be open and refine your ability to Listen.

When we decide to be open to listening to all parts of our self and the music, this encourages us to slow down and take a smaller part of the music to practice. We are musicians and listening is how we transform ourself and our playing. What do we hear in the bar, a beat, an interval, a note, of music? How is this related to the phase we are working on, to the complete piece or movement? How is it a part of the design of the piece, the composer, the style and your interpretation? What do we hear that is fresh, new, alive in the present moment? These are some of the places to begin to open, expand and refine your listening. What kind of ears are you listening with: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual? Think of listening as a metaphor for complete sensing of your whole self. For example, your hands are listening as you play, your heart listens and feels an emotional reaction to, your mind listens and asks a question, you listen to the silence in the music and wonder about the deeper meaning of the music.

2. To be mindful, inclusive and integrating your whole self.

When we are mindful, include and integrate our whole self into our practice, playing and performing, something extraordinary happens. Remember that saying, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? We might say that the whole is something more than the parts. Or, that all the parts of our self when included and integrated, a life time of work, create a one of a kind piece of art, you! So, when we play with our whole self, it is more expressive of all of you and the music. Our primary instrument is our body, to which we add the flute.

How do we create mindfulness and inclusiveness? There are many ways to do this, first decide that it is important and matters. What you say to yourself is how you are teaching yourself. Slow down and observe your own thoughts. Do care about the words that you choose? Each thought and word contains great power to guide, encourage and give meaning to your practice, performing and your life. Consider using words that are clear, sincere, imaginative, helpful, inspiring and positive.

To include your whole self, you may begin with these directions based on the Alexander Technique. The idea is to let go of, inhibit any tension you do not need, and then to direct your mind and body into the best use for what you are doing. The directions are: your neck is free, so that your head rests easily on top of your spine, your whole back lengthens and widens, (include your whole arm structure), hips back, knees forward and away, ankles easy and weight evenly distributed over your feet. To begin you may have to choose to be mindful of a part of your body where you hold tension, and release that tension. For many flutists it is the “shoulder muscles”, which include the neck muscles and effect our breathing, articulation, tone and technique.

Begin by asking your body with each breath you consciously take, to let go of any holding or tightening of “shoulder muscles” and to “free your neck”. What do you observe during your practice as you release your habit and mindfully allow your body to begin to return to its more poised and lively self? Most people find that there is less effort and an ease of movement.

3. To be aware of the musical meaning in order to feel emotional connection to and fall in love with the music.

Slow down and truly listen for the meaning and feeling of what you are playing. What do you feel in the phrase of music? Do you have an intuitive response to what you just played? Listen and become sensitive to any kind of feeling you have for what you just played and heard. Enhance and exaggerate this and deepen your connection to the note, phrase and music you are playing. Listen to a variety of recordings and live performances. What do you hear and feel in listening to someone else play? This will inspire you and educate you more about what you want to add to your practice and performing. Now record your self playing the note, phrase, part of your music. What else do you need to add to fall in love with the music?

4. To be sculpting a beautiful in-tune and consistent sound.

What does it take to sculpt, to turn the clay of your whole self, heart and spirit into sound? To create an artistic beautiful sound that can express an infinite number of sounds and weave them all together via your unique self is a lifetime’s practice and play.

So to be listening mindful, heart-full, spirit-full, body-full… holistically takes time to sense and to cultivate each element and allow it to evolve and grow with our awareness and sensitivity. There is always so much to enjoy, sense and be aware of as we warm up each day in our practice. The HOW we are creating our sound and what we are including and excluding can make all the difference in being consistent in creating our most beautiful sound.

To be truly expressing a sound we will include our mind, heart, and spirit in our sound practice. To be emotional, e=energy and motion… So we are moving from a connection to our emotions, in this case our emotions that sense our self and the sound we are intending to create and there is motion, movement with the energy of emotion… I am remembering the quote by Alan Marion, “Never play for technique alone…” him talking about including the music and expressive elements in everything we do.

So, let’s include ALL of ourself and this includes our energy, movement and musical intention as we play our sound warm ups… Let’s be curious and open anew each time we pick up our instrument and add it to our body and breathe life into it.

What kind of sound sculpture are you creating today?

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