In a lesson yesterday, it came to mind how important it is to be able to recognize what is "working" in our playing, work habits, and general approach to daily activities. While we acknowledge that change is sometimes important (and challenging), figuring out what is already coming together is a really important step. As musicians, we're in a perpetual state of growth (right? See yesterday's post on Mindset), working on our weaknesses. Do we really recognize our strengths?
Often when we practice we dismiss the good - perhaps not even acknowledging what our strengths are. After all - we're practicing, so that means we must be fixing things. Just the word PRACTICE implies imperfection, something that is flawed and must be fixed. Therefore, when we practice, we should probably fix everything....right? Nope! That old expression about not "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" comes to mind....there are definitely good things we are already doing, so it's important to keep those but perhaps tweak others.
How do we figure out what our strengths really are? A good place to start is consider the same ways we figure out our weaknesses: critical listening. Recording ourselves is essential in this process! What things seem to come naturally in our playing? What aspects of playing do we must particular enjoy? What makes the time fly so that we are totally engaged in your music-making? These are likely related to our strengths!
One of my close friends studied horn with the incomparable Phil Myers, Principal Horn of the New York Philharmonic. Known for his generosity of spirit and incredible sound, he gives some really wonderful advice on knowing your strengths in this inspiring and very candid interview, below. Pay attention to this topic in particular, beginning around minute 12:00.
Group assignment (mine, too): recognize your strengths, starting today! Make a list of what you consider your greatest assets as a flutist and musician. Do not be shy but try to be as objective as possible. These could range from a spinning tone at forte to a varied vibrato to great ensemble playing skills to a sweet and pure soft attack on a middle d! How do you build on these strengths? Looking ahead, how can you start to do this?
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