Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to be in the moment in your playing. It’s so important! If you have performed for friends or your teacher, you know that sometimes it’s easy to become distracted. You want to be present in your playing; but it can be so incredibly difficult. I’m going to give you some ways of thinking about this, and approaching it, that hopefully will be helpful for you!
The first thing I want to talk about is a little bit philosophical.
We sometimes assume that words are thought. The whole idea of thinking in your head is that you’re stringing words together. But words were invented for communication, to be able to express ideas to one another. You don’t actually need words to think about something. Have you ever had a revelation that just came to you? Did you have to string words together in order to have that thought? Of course not! The words express the thought, but they aren’t the thought themselves. This is why there are those who master the art of meditation. They clear their minds from the internal dialog to be able to have pure thought, not hampered by words. If you’ve ever been in a state of flow while doing anything, whether it’s experiencing a beautiful sunset, looking at a beautiful painting, or just enjoying a moment of life without quantifying it and defining it with words, you understand that this is one of the most beautiful things there is in life! You don’t need to label every single thought.
How does this relate to music?
When you’re playing music, the thing that will distract you more than anything else is using words in your head, and thinking about what you’re doing instead of just doing it. You want to be present in your performance. You don’t want to be analytical and judgmental, thinking about what note comes next. You can’t think that way, it’ll drive you crazy and destroy your performance. You have to be right in the moment with a sense of where you’re going. Just like in life itself, you want to be living in the moment with a sense of continuity. You want to know where you are and where you’re heading.
The way to achieve this in music is simply by listening!
Listen to the sounds. Become absorbed in the beauty of the music you’re creating at that moment, rather than getting distracted with the mechanics of your playing. Of course, there has to be a certain amount that you keep present, in the analytical sense, so you don’t take a wrong turn in the score. There has to be a certain amount of intelligence. But moment to moment, you should not be bogged down with these intellectual ideas. Instead, enjoy the sound and explore where it’s going next. The most satisfying musical performance you can ever have is one where the music is unfolding, and you yourself are listening in anticipation of where it’s going to go next. You may have experienced this before if you have ever played on a different piano. It sounds different, and as a result, you’re playing with fresh ears. That’s the secret of what you want to achieve in your musical performance.
You want to be listening to, and engaged in your own music.
That’s what draws the listener in! It’s what keeps you on track in your musical performance. So remember, don’t get hung up with intellectualizing what you’re doing more than necessary. Just keep your wits about you to avoid taking wrong turns, knowing where repeats are, and knowing where you are in the score. If there are leaps that you have to quantify, you need to have your intellect alive. But don’t get bogged down with it. Enjoy your musical performance! Listen to it and everybody else will too. I hope you’ve enjoyed this! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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9 thoughts on “How to Be Present When You Play the Piano”
I do enjoy what I play. Especially the arrangements for church – often a familiar song where I hear the words in my head and am inspired.
Thank you so n much for laying this out so clearly. I will allow this to bring ease to my piano playing. 🙏
The more you play for people, the better you will become at staying present in your playing.
I’ve definitely experienced some of that effect when playing on different instruments — also it can have to do with being in a different room/acoustic as well. Everything sounds new and fresh and it draws you in to want to find more — it becomes a much more intuitive experience than an analytical one — some of my favorite moments have been those.
Playing for people is the best way to be present, if you can deal with the adrenaline!
I am glad my teacher has been sending me emails with your videos. I love them and I am learning a lot from you. I already subscribed to your channel. Thank you!!
That is good to hear! You can search among thousands of articles and videos here with key words: https://livingpianos.com/blog/
Excellent advice for all performers. I’m a professional singer and your advice reminds me to always love the music and the sounds I am creating moment to moment. Thank you!
So glad this hits home with you as well!