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Mendy Smith

Music and the Mind

November 11, 2012 at 1:33 AM

How often do you think you play one way but actually play another. This question was posed by Charles Noble recently in his blog On Excellence.

In his post, he and another lamented on their student's inability to properly execute a dynamic range enough to even notice, eluding to the notion that what is in one's mind doesn't necessarily translate to actual results.

I responded as one of those guilty students. In my mind I sound a certain way, but once it is pointed out to me how I actually sound, I'm mortified. It's astounding how one's mind can play tricks on you, making you think you play better (or worse) than you really do.

My last lesson was a case in point, when my teacher flat out asked me if I remembered anything she told me. The answer was yes, and I even take copious notes and post them in my rehearsal space.


Alas, even with all this effort, my body fails me in its execution at times. Notes come out flat, shifts are sloppy, and dynamics are for the birds. However, in my mind's ear, it is beautiful music. Why do I have this self-deception? It may be my own way of convincing myself to not give up; to continue to strive for an excellence I may never achieve, but pursue regardless of my ability.

The point is to continuously strive to be better than you are today. Some day I may surprise myself.

Happy practicing!

From Matthew Grogan
Posted on November 12, 2012 at 8:33 PM
The easiest way around this problem is to record yourself playing regularly, it's really hard to listen to yourself at first, but you are your own worst critic and you will instantly see what you need to do to improve!
From Terez Mertes
Posted on November 13, 2012 at 4:05 PM
Loved this blog, Mendy!

(The mirror can introduce all sorts of self-deception into one's world, as well. It can be shocking.)

From Christina C.
Posted on November 13, 2012 at 9:06 PM
once again... I'm impressed.

From Christina C.
Posted on November 15, 2012 at 3:29 AM
ugh! just had to pop back in here because I had a very similar experience just now. I have a violin on trial just now so I decided to record my practice session- scales and arpeggios then some Bach. Tone & vibrato often go by the wayside during the scales and arpeggios for me so I really tried to focus on those during the Bach .... I wouldn't know it from the recording. Meh!

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