The Motivational Speaker
Have you ever heard a motivational speaker? If they are good at what they do, you leave the presentation ready to try something new, or to improve. Similarly, after you leave a really good concert, you may be excited and motivated to go home and practice. Why does this occur? There are many reasons, but I want to talk about one reason today: emotion.
Are You Emotional?
Sometimes people are labeled as “emotional”. This is often used as a negative term, and one that people usually don’t want to be associated with. I find this humorous, because all humans are emotional; from someone who is writing about a person they’ve lost in their life, to pro athletes jumping up and down like school children after winning a championship game. This is not to “make fun” of anyone, but to communicate that people are emotional, and that’s human! When we understand this, we become better musicians.
Playing With Emotion
The title of this section does not suggest that you should play with people’s emotions. Instead, it suggests that when you play, you should do so with emotion. For the longest time, I remember struggling with this concept and applying it as a musician. We all feel emotion, but how can we communicate this through our instrument? Over the years I discovered how to effectively share this with my students, and I’ll share it with you as well.
How Musical Emotions Work
We all know that emotion occurs in music, but what actually happens? This is important to know before we go over the steps of playing with emotion. Here’s an example.
You live your life and have your own experiences- both good and bad. I live my life and I have different experiences that are also good and bad. We have both felt a range of emotions (happiness, anger, depressed, excitement, etc.) that are the same, but our experiences are different. So, when we both hear the same piece of music, and it’s communicating longing (wanting to be with someone you can no longer be with: a parent, friend, or significant other), we feel the “longing” emotion and we automatically attach it to our own unique experiences. All of a sudden, the music becomes personal to each of us.
Let me continue with this example and explain a little further. You and I both hear the song that represents longing, and the longing feeling reminds me of my own “longing” feelings, which are attached to a personal experience (like a family member who has passed away). I remember the good times we had, and I remember that person specifically. Likewise, you may be thinking of a close friend who is overseas for an extended period of time. We both feel the same emotion of longing, but it’s attached to our own individual, personal experience.
This is why music is universal and so personal at the same time. In order to be the best musician we can, we need to play with emotion, and communicate in a way that people are able to connect with.
Surprisingly, there’s a step by step process for learning how to play with emotion. The emotion is already in us, we just need to learn how to let it come out as we play. Next week we’ll jump right to these steps so you can begin to play with more emotion, and become a better musician.
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