“It’s so out of tune!” “Ugh, that was a disaster!” “It sounds so scratchy.”
Do you ever catch yourself saying things like this to yourself when you practice or perform? Or worse, have you heard someone verbalize them? (I hope not!)
Going hand-in-hand with the state of bare awareness is non-judgment. This is a crucial component of being a fearless fiddler in performance situations. It means noticing what’s going on, without assigning positive or negative values to it.
This can be such a challenge for musicians, who have been subject to many forms of criticism throughout our training, and often are our own harshest critics.
The real challenge, however, is to keep the keen discernment that we have, while staying neutral. Let’s take the examples from the opening. How can they be re-phrased in a non-judgmental way?
If something is out of tune, is it flat or sharp? Do you know by how many cents? What is its relation to the vertical chord structure, or to the horizontal melody line? What caused the error – was it an error in shifting technique? Maybe it’s time to review some shifting exercises. Now we’re getting somewhere!
If the tone is scratchy, why? Where was your bow? Are you using too much pressure or too little bow speed? What kind of sound does the music call for in this spot?
Reframing statements in a non-judgmental way takes more effort, but is more descriptive, more creative, and helps point to a solution. Simply describing something as “bad” is not very helpful – we do not know what is wrong nor how to fix it, and it’s kind of depressing.
Let’s work on silencing the inner mean old teacher, and institute a policy of non-judgment in our practicing and rehearsing.