Are You Enjoying Your Own Playing? (You Should Be)

I’m sure you know the feeling you have when someone sees a photo of you and comments, “So sweet,” or “You look great!” yet all you can see is your uneven teeth, the crow’s feet, the bad hair day.

Perhaps someone sees your creativity when all you see is a bad hair day.

And of course, the feeling you have when someone says, “Your playing sounded fantastic,” and that little voice in your head chirps up, “Except for the flub in the B part, and the horrible tone. She is just trying to be nice, obviously,”

In many ways, being creative involves always wanting to do more, to improve. Thus, your reaction could be seen as a sign of life: a sign of your creativity and musicianship.

On the other hand…

We all have a staggering inability — just staggering — to appreciate the beauty of the moment in our own playing.

Here’s a thought:

When someone makes a positive comment on your playing, ask yourself, “Was there any moment during that tune/piece where I had a positive thought about my playing? Or did I miss those moments entirely, in seeking for ‘better’ and ‘perfect’?”

Wait, don’t you make all this effort to play music because there is something about it that moves you, and you want to be able to make that happen yourself? Could it be — even just barely — that you are already achieving that? Apparently someone else is hearing it. Maybe it’s time you started listening for it, too.

Before you begin to say, “Yeah, but…I can’t possibly improve if I’m not focused on what is wrong, and what I need to fix,” consider this:

In a recent online master class, Martin Hayes stressed the importance of finding enjoyment in our own playing. “If it’s enjoyable and you are connected to it, and getting that kind of experience from it, you will advance all the time.

This is quite revolutionary. It turns what many of us think we “know” about practicing on its head. Instead of seeking what is wrong in your playing, seek what’s right. Actively, deeply seek out what you love, what is good, what affects you, resonates with you, mentally and even physically.

This is not how you become a musician. This is how you reveal the musician that is already within you.

Judy Minot is a musician and the author of the book Best Practice: Inspiration and Ideas for Traditional Musicians.

Judy has played and practiced piano since she could reach the keys. She trained in classical music until age 16. In the “empty nest” years she began playing jazz, and at the same time discovered the vibrant community of traditional music. She now plays piano, accordion and violin, and has led workshops all over the Eastern U.S.

Judy began her working life in broadcast video, and was a well-respected editor of entertainment specials, music videos and documentaries for a long list of well-known musical artists. She went on to produce, direct and write for broadcast, cable and recording industry clients, eventually transitioning to work in digital marketing.

Judy holds a 4th degree black belt in the martial art of Kokikai Aikido, which she taught at Rutgers University for 12 years. She is also a certified yoga teacher. visit her (mostly) aikido blog

Martin Hayes’ master classes are available for a surprisingly low monthly fee on Patreon.



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Judy Minot

A musician and author of the book Best Practice: Inspiration and Ideas for Traditional Musicians