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September 2010

Shelling peas - practise and mental relaxation

September 8, 2010 06:30

I've read (and listened) a lot about how important it is to be fully relaxed to play the violin.  At any sign of tension in limb, finger or body I stop and try to work thorugh the passage maintaining relaxation.

However, I've read less about mental relaxation - perhaps because it is simply a harder thing to explain or maybe its something that some players just have and others (yup me) have to get.  What I noticed is that when I practise I put as much emotion and passion into playing as if I was performing - and I do that whether its a concerto or a scale.  its as if its 'me against the music'. 

What I have been fooling with is trying to play as if I was washing the floor or shelling peas.  Basically, trying to take out all emotion (expression) and competetiveness (me against the music).  The result is bland - and the more bland it is, the easier it is to manage the tricky passages.  I've taken that a step further - if I find myself tensing - that is, getting prepared or nervous before any passage I now stop.  Go over it a few times and then try the shelling peas approach.

I think I can apply this to performance too - maybe there is a way of introducing the musicality and emotional expression while still playing the technical bits in the pea shelling mode?  I think there must be - I just watch any of the greats and it seems as if their minds are totally relaxed through those incredily difficult passeges, while somehow their expression flows into their playing without disturbing the pea shelling mentallity. 

It seems to work for me - but in this wonderful world of violin (or any instrument) nothing is novel so can anyone fill me in on the roots of this approach? 

BTW I love eating peas fresh from the pod!

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