The Right Mindset for Musicians; flexibility

Published on 18 June 2024 at 22:02



I have been thinking about the importance of this quality of musicians for some time. Flexibility is essential for musicians to employ their muscles in playing their instruments. However, my thoughts had nothing to do with being able to stretch the muscles, not that kind of flexibility. Although, that is also a helpful quality to acquire or possess. Therefore, the question is about anything other than physical aptitude. Instead, my quest is about flexibility regarding one's mindset, shifting one's thinking, and performing immediately under different circumstances or unexpected situations. Here are some ideas for when to exercise this mindset positively.

Physical discomfort due to different causes
Traveling conditions
Practicing situations
Rehearsal changes
Missing part for a specific instrument
Personnel changes

I have experienced all of these conditions to some degree throughout my life. This does not mean that these things always happen; it just means that they can, and it is good to have the right mindset if they do. It is crucial to remain steadfast on one's course with a positive attitude and not let these aspects pull a musician down.

The physical discomforts vary for different instruments. Mine have to primarily do with cracked fingertips near the fingernails. I have dealt with it all my life and still do when the weather becomes cold. My fingertips immediately reacted to that in the past as I had to play concerts and participate in competitions. Naturally, this adds to the stress one feels and creates anxiety, but I have always somehow found a way to cope with the problem. I have worn bandaids on my fingertips so I can manage to get through a concert. I have applied liquid bandages in hopes that it would help.

Physical issues, such as pain in the hands or arms or illnesses, can keep musicians from practicing their instruments or participating in recitals and concerts. But again, determination to play and do the work will assist in getting through these hard times. Proper self-care plays a part and, consequently, helps resolve these issues. A musician might need to rest for a few days or some time before resuming their activities. This is where adopting the said flexibility comes into play.

Sometimes, musicians need more adequate practice situations when they travel somewhere away from home to perform. They might need more time to practice and warm up before a concert.

A musician's instrument might react differently when they fly somewhere else or even their body. I went to a competition in another state once. For whatever reason, my instrument and my hands reacted differently to the weather conditions in that state. And there I was; my fingers were not doing well on the fingerboard, and I could feel my hands sweating from the heat. Again, I got through the performance.

Travel circumstances can sometimes be challenging for instrumentalists who play large instruments like a cello or a double bass. The cost of transporting one's instrument with them alone can present challenges.

During rehearsals, the organizers might need the right parts for a specific instrument, and the musician might be asked to transpose. I have been in situations when I had to take the treble part and play it on my cello using the bass clef.

Someone might drop off at the last minute, and the next best player might be asked to play the principal's part. And good practicing habits here will pay off immensely as a musician can be ready to save the day. During my first year at the university, I was suddenly asked to jump in for someone who had just dropped out. It was a composition class, and I was handed many parts for the cello to play in a concert for the composition students. Even though I was not sure at the time as to how things would turn out, I learned a great deal from that experience.

Sometimes, events are canceled. Unexpected things may occur, and a musician might have counted on what might have been.

We can only be prepared in our skills with proper practicing habits during these unexpected events, remain focused, look forward to the projects ahead of us, and adopt a flexible mindset.

What situations in your performances have you experienced where you needed to adopt a flexible mindset? Please share with us in the comments below.

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