Stress and Sound

March 3, 2018, 8:07 PM · Yesterday morning, I received a call in FL that my car was being impounded in IN because my brother, who I left it with to use and care for, had let a woman with no license drive it and was pulled over for speeding. Later that day, a close family friend who I sent to pick up my car found pawn receipts in the glove box, one for my welder and another for a yet unidentified watch. We won't know till monday.

I know, I know, sharing family drama but it's so outrageous, not the usual bickering squabble of syblings.

First practice session after the initial call was what can only describe as angry scales. Fast pace and lots of projection.

Practicing tonight, my legato sounds wretched which is leading to frustration on top of stress after a few minutes of listening to it. I was researching a possible answer but it occurred to me, the problem is with my current and not general approach, something I'm doing in the present and then I put one and one together.

I'm not one to deal with tension idly, allowing a bundle of nerves and bad energy to get internally blocked up. I aim to do things that I enjoy and generally distract me, like swimming and long walks with my dog but not sure violin will be one of those things.

Question: When facing stress, do you play or stay away?

Replies (13)

March 3, 2018, 8:38 PM · I guess it depends on the severity of the problems. But generally, play. It helps move your focus away from the stress.
March 3, 2018, 9:12 PM · Depends on your mentality. If you're stressed, upset, depressed, etc, you can try meditating for a few minutes to clear your mind, then practice.
March 3, 2018, 11:32 PM · Play! Intense, focused practice sets you free.
March 4, 2018, 2:24 AM · Play! At least try to. With minor problems, I manage to focus on the violin after some 20 minutes. With major problems, I find my bow hand but also intonation wretched, but practicing still helps to hold up discipline.
I hope the better one gets technically, the easier it will become to maintain some quality in one's playing even under unfavorable circumstances...
March 4, 2018, 4:30 AM · Gabriel, I feel bad for you, but try to keep a fresh head and approach the situation rationally. After all, just remember that much worse things could happen to you than this, however unpleasant it all may be! In my experience, it only is useful to practice after you have dealt with a small aspect of a situation like that. Otherwise your mind is too occupied with the situation. You need not solve the situation completely, but step by step do the required actions. After such a step, it may be relaxing to find an hour or two practicing the violin, then you are mentally loaded for the next step. This may mean for some stretches of days you will not touch your violin, and that is not a problem whatsoever.
March 4, 2018, 10:57 AM · No recepie here... Listen to your body and do what helps you to relax. I have been through a rough period when I simply did not have energy to practice. On other occasions, violin has been a much needed anchor but also a rainbow bridge toward more serene pastures.
March 4, 2018, 12:03 PM · It depends on whether you have professional commitments. If you still have to get up on stage and deliver to paying audience members, then you put everything else out of your mind.
March 4, 2018, 12:28 PM · A previous teacher of mine really stressed the importance of not allowing your mood or emotions to color what you're doing, whether you're performing or practicing. He felt that you need to be in control, rational, and planned, and that tends to be incompatible with using the violin as a canvas for whatever it is that you're going through.

March 4, 2018, 9:12 PM · Wow, sorry for all your bad luck!

Playing can make your state of mind better or worse: if playing is a source of stress, then it's going to be stressful...

But if you treat your playing time like a meditation/mindfulness session where the objective is on noticing your playing and make your practice like an lab experimenting where you're searching for the best way to create resonance, it can be a transcendental experience.

Hope you can find a way to make playing music a freeing experience!

March 4, 2018, 11:22 PM · When stressed, I usually exercise hard for 20 min or so, then I can better channel useful energy toward music, work, or whatever. Pavement-pounding walks, weather notwithstanding, are my potion of choice. But an important component is to be present to my body and to the walk...not fretting over the stressor.
March 5, 2018, 3:50 AM · I used to find it very difficult to keep stress from ruining my practicing. Not only was the quality of my practicing bad, also I often didn't manage to practice enough when I had other problems and that added to my stress. Over the years I managed to develop a sort of bubble in which I practice which keeps the stress out. I consciously tell myself that my practicing is mine and no other stress is allowed near it. Took a while to implement this and at first I really had to force the stress out of my mind. It took quite a bit of dicipline but as a professional I couldn't only work well when my life was in order so I had to find a solution. By now it has become natural and I welcome my 'practice-bubble' as a break from stress. Also, especially in really bad times, it helps me to have at least something positive which is more or less in my control. This has often helped me then deal with the problems causing stress.
March 5, 2018, 4:22 AM · I play! However, I reverse the normal order of practice.... I start off hacking through some repertoire to release tension, and then once I'm a bit more focused I then start doing some actual work.
March 16, 2018, 6:24 PM · Thank you all for your input. I tried most of the methods mentioned and managed to overcome it. The constrast between how bad I was sounding and how much I improved by clearing my mind and focusing on the task at hand was actually pretty bolstering and made it a positive experience. Much appreciated.

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