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It's Sound Exploration Day!

deliberatepractice practice tools practicetips Nov 16, 2022

Hey there! Whatcha thinking a’boot?

Just trying to be cool like the researchers in this study who asked a similar question :) 

At random moments, researchers asked expert and novice tennis players who were viewing a recording of themselves playing in a tennis competition, “What were you thinking about while playing at that point?”  The researchers then coded each response into one of three concepts: a condition, an action, or a goal. 

While both expert and novice players shared similar amounts of thoughts involving goals, expert players shared far more statements involving conditions and actions. 

In other words, gaining expertise involves becoming more aware of what specific conditions and coordinating actions go into achieving your desired result.  For a tennis player, that might seem pretty straight-forward. For example, when the ball is heading towards your right with a backspin on it, move your feet quickly and swing your forehand under the ball, aiming juuuust over the net. But what does that look like for a musician? 

One strategy we use is to develop a toolkit of thoughts we can draw on to achieve a desired result.  For example, for a supple, smooth forward line, Katy imagines the tip of a dolphin’s nose as the little guy glides through water.  For a super-quiet air-attack of a note, Jeff imagines just one teeny-tiny cell on his lip is vibrating within his airstream.

You can create your own toolkit of thoughts from which you can draw through this next exercise in unconventional deliberate practice: sound exploration sessions. 

So yay, it’s Sound Exploration Day, and the final part of our series on deliberate practice. Let’s dive in. 

Thought

First, imagine, in as much detail as possible, that the sound you want to create is emanating from the space around you. It might be useful to draw on aural inspiration, like a performer whose sound you admire. Or perhaps, you’d like to capture a certain effect from a story, like the adrenaline-spike in Tarzan’s momentum and lift swinging from tree-to-tree.  You might even draw inspiration from visual qualities, like finding ways to add a shimmer to your sound the way a light strikes the angles of a ruby.  The point is this: get clear in your mind how you want to sound and what colors, emotions or effects you want to create.  

 

Action

Then, consider what action will allow you to draw the sound out of the room. Before going to your instrument or singing, imagine how it might feel in your body to join that sound, as though it already exists out in the world.  What naturally steps up to support? What relaxes to allow the sound you’re imagining? What might your airstream feel like? 

The more vibrationally connected you are to the room you’re in, the more you release yourself to it, which therefore impacts your technique. So get your musical thought and action in your mind and body.  

Then, play a note. Pleeease let go of trying to control it.  Instead, make a sound, whatever it is, and release with freedom through your instrument. 

Result 

Sound exploration is vibration exploration.  Your sound that reaches the audience is not just you or your instrument, but the vibration and resonance you create in the room.  The space around you is vibrating with you. As you’re considering results in your sound, also consider how your sound lives and moves in the space around you. 

How much of the room did you take up? Not just standing or sitting in your physical space, but emotionally, psychologically, and energetically?  The physical self takes up only so much space, but the non-physical self can take up the whole room and BECOME the whole room. Just, wow.  Imagine a performer who can do that!!

How much did you feel that you belonged to the space, and you were joining it with your sound? No hiding within it, but you are it and it is you, and together you are vibrating as you explore the colors and sounds that you can draw from it.

This might be VERY different than your ordinary practice considerations, but these questions can have a significant impact on very concrete actions within your technique.  

For example, if you imagine you are the space around you and the space around you is you, how might that impact how you breathe in and out of it? 

Often, when we breathe, there can be a sense of tension from TAKING a breath. What if actually, the air is already ours?  You are the room’s completeness, the room is your completeness, and you are just swapping space?  How does that alter the ease with which you breathe? 

Enjoy exploring your sound and self in the space around you.  Consider your result, then adjust your thought if necessary.  

Perhaps actually, it’s not a ruby color you’re looking for, it’s topaz!

But once you’ve got it, any time you come across a section in your music that reminds you of this color, you’ll know exactly what to think and do to your desired result with your audience.

Cheering you on, always. 

Jeff & Katy

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