By Nathan Pulse
Hi everyone, this month I've decided to write about something that is VERY important to all musicians, not just brass players.
Mindfulness is a term you may have heard before. Oftentimes people seem to think that it means being aware of the feelings of others, however, this is not quite true. It really is more about being aware of your own feelings and emotions at the present time. The exact definition from the Cambridge Dictionaries Online is "the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, which is thought to create a feeling of calm". Now you may ask me, "What does this have to do with music? Isn't this about meditation and not about performing on stage? What are you talking about you crazy person!?"
For the mindful musician simply replace all mentionings of body, mind, and feelings, and replace them with the word sound. If you are mentally aware of the sound that you want to produce then you will be able to reduce performance anxiety and be totally in the moment during your performance. We've all had the issue of being distracted while playing a solo, the moment where we make eye contact with someone in the audience and suddenly we make an error and have a hard time recovering quickly. A mindful musician is singing their piece in their head before they even walk on stage, and they are so in the moment that they are unaware of anything but the sound that they want to produce. If you've already put in the hours of good practice, and you know your piece well, then the only thing to do is to focus on the sound in your mind and allow your body to reproduce the mechanics of playing that it already knows how to do. Getting out of our own way by eliminating any thought but the sound that we want to produce.
Now, this isn't to say that you shouldn't be paying attention to the other musicians on stage with you. You do need to be aware of tuning and balance within your ensemble. It simply means that you need to be aware of the exact sound that you want to make before you start to play, otherwise you're running the risk of playing something incorrectly or differently than you might want. A little extra focus goes a long way.