Overthinking vs Just Do It
In a nutshell, Overthinking allows us to Just Do It... better!
Some of us found the violin easy from the start: the right background, the right hands, good reflexes, a well-nourished "ear", calm but intense absorption in what we do, will-power etc. etc.
Others have to create these conditions for themselves.
Overthinking can help us teach a student who is different from ourselves, physically or mentally.
It can help master or improve new or neglected techniques.
It can create different forms of Slow Practice.
It can re-awaken deadened sensations and create new ones.
Overthinking during preparation can allow us to Just Do It.
I'm all in favour of thinking and one of the things I think is that music shouldn't sound "calculated". Over-thinking is when the means causes us to lose sight of the end.
I have a foot in both camps.
The right means allow us to enjoy the end without having to figure it out.
Attributed to Heifetz: "Practice like it means everything in the world to you, and perform like you don't give a damn"
This is maybe bit pedantic but to me overthinking is thinking that gets in the way of reaching a goal. Thinking that helps reach the goal is just thinking, no qualifier necessary..
Good old Heifetz!
I agree with Albrecht, and live by that Heifetz quote.
"Keep it simple, stupid and it works wonderfully."
"Maybe, but that can lead to simple, stupid playing (only too common..)"
I hadn't heard the "Heifetz" quote before but if true it does the man no credit at all. To perform like you don't give a damn can only leave the impression that you don't give a damn about the music. My mantra might be "just do it with passion".
I love the Heifetz quote.
Steve, I think you're over thinking the quote.
One "like" for Paul Fehrenbach. I think Heifetz likely meant that a performance should be unfettered by fears of failure and undue concern for technical problems. But ... that's easy for him to say.
In defense of Heifetz: The quote--if real--allows for more benevolent interpretations; I take it to mean that the time to worry about one's performance is during practice, not during the performance. Most people I think would agree with this.
Stupid to bang on about a quote which could well be apocryphal (or at least corrupted by lack of context) but wouldn't we applaud another musician who says we should perform "like it means everything in the world" to us?
I found the Heifetz citation interesting. I studied with one of his students, and he told me about the same in slightly other words. Now I know, where that might have come from.
I like Flesch's scheme.
I had a tennis coach who said "when you are thinking, you are losing". I don't think that applies to the violin, which makes it a little easier.
One of the many strokes of the Chinese character "t'ing" (listen) means "undivided attention" which should perhaps be be a "being", non-thinking state.
Jazz legend (pianist) John Lewis was famously asked what's the secret to success in jazz improvisation, and he replied "Concentration."
When I play I'm thinking partly (probably too much) about the mechanics of making the notes but mostly about the music. Taking care of my own part in an ensemble and relating it to the rest occupies my whole attention. When I play on my own I'm constantly focused on the sound and the phrasing. I really can't comprehend how "undivided attention" could be interpreted as a "non-thinking" state!
"Non calculating", perhaps? To focus on sound, phrasing and ensemble, we cannot "think" about the fingers, thumbs, elbows, arm vs hand vibrato, or leaps into 6th position etc. We "Just Do It" with what we have already assimilated. The thinking then becomes (nearly) purely musical.
When you have to play C on the A string do you think "I must put down my second finger?" I don't. I read the C on the music and the second finger does the rest without any conscious thought on the part of my brain. It is called a reflex.
My second finger is the strongest, and has the best vibrato, so I probably( (..) use it most. If it gets sore or stiff after a 3 hour rehearsal, back in my practice space I will spend some analytical time concentrating on the sensations of each finger tip, to study and equalise the finger-fall and pressure of each finger, and the way they feel during a good vibrato. Some of these improvements may carry over to a subsequent rehearsal when I just make music.
@ EmilyF - I agree 100% about the Flesch plan to practice all 3 things - and many other practicing primers support this. Galamian covers something very similar in his book on violin playing & teaching. Practicing to perform is almost entirely different than practicing for technique or to solve tricky passage problems. Kerson Leong advocates practicing "as if performing" even when doing so passagework. I'm still working on interpreting what he means, but it does sound very similar to the studies showing that practicing with dynamics and expression from the beginning appears to really help pull everything together sooner.
Right in the middle of a piece, in a concert, the conga drummer next to me said "Don't Think, Just Play". For singers there is this common principle; "In a performance do Not think about the mechanics of singing, just sing" Since most humans can only focus on one thing at a time, it is important to turn off the technical mental chatter, focus on the sound, and trust your hands to do what they have been trained to do. I rarely succeed at that.
Lars, you are quite right! I chose both halves of the title in a caricatural way (hence the capitals), because the expressions occur in a dismissive way in many threads.
Maybe this? Sometimes "perform like you don't give a damn" doesn't deliver.
How about Play slow, think fast, then Play fast, just do it?
Steve, the Mendelssohn, I couldn't ask for more. Perfect interplay and balance with orchestra.
OK, my loss, your gain! I just have a completely different view of the piece. To me this is more flash than pash.
I think Heifetz meant that you should play not as if you're watching out for every shift and note, but as if those shifts and notes come naturally and easily to you. For example, listen to any common student playing something. The tempo is often uneven, with the student changing it based on the difficulty of the passage. They also tend to play with less exaggeration and emphasis in the bow hand (i.e. the same monotonous tone) because it allows for easier control when you don't have to worry as much about the bow hand during harder passages. You can also hear pauses between big shifts (Sibelius Bflat to Bflat). I think Heifetz meant that you should practice and master a piece technically to the point where you can play without much worry for these things. The ability to play a piece inside and out through sheer practice.
Unrelated, but I have always thought of Nike's slogan of "Just Do It" as something extremely foolish and something that a fratboy douchebag would say to pressure his friend.
"Just Do It" is Nike, which sounds kind of joyless.
I remember hearing a tip about driving in the ice and what to do when you skid. The tip was look in the direction you intend to go and let your body take over as you do not have time to think. Supposedly you will make the right choices without overthinking in that split-second situation. Of course this pre-supposes somebody who can already drive. I see playing this way - you put the practice in and eventually you can intend to do what you want to do without much overthinking.
I can’t claim to be an expert on letting go. In fact I’m the Uber-over thinker if ever there was one.
In a video of Heifetz in a Paris concert, we see him offstage just before going on pacing up and down like a caged lion. He even asks an assistant what the French say to mean "good luck"! Also remarkable is his almost shy acceptance of the applause at the end.
My former therapist said I think too much. My ex-wife said I never thought about anything. I threw this problem to a Zen Buddhist priest. He told me to ignore both of them, lighten up, and enjoy the moment.