How to grow in musicianship and confidence and play with "more feeling"
Articles,  Mettle

How to grow in musicianship and confidence and play with “more feeling”

I’m thinking of a movie – perhaps it was “Fame“? – in which I hear an elderly ballet mistress with a strong accent yelling at her poor apprehensive ducklings to perform with “more feeeleeng!”

Musicians get that a lot, too: “Play with more feeling!”

But what does that mean? We don’t know. Only those saying it know what they are referring to, and our lessons are so focused on technical agility and perfection that there’s no time to explore this “more feeling” idea. Of course, that completely undermines students’ confidence.

We think we will never get it. We don’t understand.

I’m trying, but clearly I’m failing.

These thoughts still go through our heads on a daily basis – it’s what’s drilled into us.

It is quite a journey indeed to explore what makes up that extra “feeling” we’re missing when performing. But believe me – it’s one of the most thrilling, exciting, and rewarding journeys you could ever undertake.

Music is far from boring!

Which is something teachers, our peers, and even the occasional conductor also tell us:

“Give the long notes some life!”

This suggests music is boring without life.

There is some truth to the existence of boring music, or music without life:

  • Without life there is no meaning.
  • Without meaning there’s no conversation.
  • Without a musical conversation, there’s no exchange of emotions.
  • Without an exchange of emotions, there is no communication.
  • Without communication, there is only isolation.

So yes, ALL music requires life.

And it is up to us performers to make sure that that life exists. It’s easy to do, too. Yet only a handful of guides share with us the “secret” to giving life to music, which often makes us feel uncomfortable and ignorant. Maybe they don’t know themselves – have you ever thought of that?!

The very first step is to decide that all music you play has life. That’s really it.

Repeat after me: “This music has meaning for someone, somewhere.”

Play or sing.

That music just lived life.

And you are a communicator of good music. Well done you!

Was it perfect?

Probably not. That’s okay.

You don’t need a trophy to build confidence.

But that’s not because your teacher or a judge at a local competition didn’t give you a trophy for 10 out of 10, or because you felt like you could do better… you can. You always can.

It’s because perfection doesn’t exist.

(I’ve written about that before here.)

So stop chasing it.

Do that and you will soon find yourself not only enjoying being a musician a lot more, but also having a greater impact on those you share your music with.

Here’s a TRIPLE WIN lesson:

You can be a better musician by adjusting your own expectations.

Do the best you can in the moment, honestly and genuinely, and you will help someone live a better life as a result:

  • Your music will have feeling.
  • Your music will have life and meaning.
  • Your music will be just what someone needed to hear at that moment in time.

Keep conversing, my friend – you’re doing better than the world (or your ballet teacher) is letting on.