Learning to Love Your Inner Extrovert
Performance for artists of all stripes in Australia has been severely curtailed to the extent that they are not able to earn a living at all during our regular Covid lockdowns. It's an awful time in that regard.
As in Part 1 of this small series, I mentioned that learning music can be perceived as a personal, highly subjective exercise in self-discovery. Performance is the secondary part of creating a more whole version of yourself as a musician. This is precisely why the absence of performance - for performers and audiences alike - is so difficult to take.
As soon as you start to learn an instrument, it's clear that you and your musicality are really the instrument. As such, you are a performer. It's important to embrace this from the beginning.
How to do that? As in part 1, I suggest choosing and learning one or two simple songs to demonstrate where your musical capability is at any given time. This will stem the feeling of being 'put upon' to play.
Let's turn to this aspect of a learning musician's attitude more closely...
When one doesn't feel like playing or performing on request, it's entirely insufficient to have no backup response that demonstrates that you acknowledge a request to show your skills. The self-perception that you may not yet have the skills to perform is not at all the point. Extroverts will know what I mean because they will often perform whether or not they believe they have the skills. *
Why? Because the question pre-supposes that the giving of the song in return for mindful listening is part of the transaction of equal and relative parts, no matter the type of transaction. If I could put it more simply, we buy an icecream for $5 (steep!) so we expect that it will taste good and be stacked high with everything you ordered!
See how it wasn't the elements of the transaction, but the transaction itself that matters? Music or ice-cream, it's still a transaction and as such, it doesn't require much energy to transact.
So when we get a request to play a song, remember that this request is one half of a transaction and puts 2 equal things together to create a shared moment.**
So what do we say as musicians to set this in motion?
'I don't have something prepared right now but I can play you what I've been learning?' is my fave response.
Even better, 'here's something I prepared earlier....'
In my view, being in charge of what is heard when you do play is a solution to the attitude that you are a 'performing monkey' who plays at will. As we mature and understand ourselves in the context of learning music, we realise that learning to play at will is actually the goal - embrace it as your opportunity to be a better musician and learn to integrate it with your inner enthusiasm for playing music at all.
In closing, whenever you are asked to play a song/something, the best bet is to have something prepared and even better, perform for others regularly using your own initiative ie. stage your own performances,
* For full authenticity, engage in regular music sessions, no matter who you are!
** If I go to an icecream shop, pay my $5 and get a song instead, then we're really in trouble!