Bridging the Gap

Flowing, not stumbling.

No matter one's performance environment, playing style, genre of repertoire, technical ability, theoretical understanding or experience, playing fluently is one of the most important components of pianism.

Whether a perfect metronomic steadiness is required or if the piece permits metronomic flexibility and personal interpretation, fluency of execution remains paramount in both practice and performance.

Fluency, it must be understood, does not only come from having mastered a piece and muscle memory certainly does not result in an honest performance; in fact, it is a total separation of the Body from the Mind and this is disastrous.  Why?  Because emotion, sensitivity of the moment and input from the Inspirational Source is completely cut off and what is music without at least these three components?

It must therefore be understood that fluency, or 'flowing in practormance', comes from a calm Mind and not just technical brilliance or piece mastery.  This article will explain how to bridge the gap from incessant ego noise to silent inspiration both at and away from the piano (on the internal piano), no matter one's ability or experience.

The gap exists because the ego will not let the natural Self (You) believe that what is desired is possible.  I am here to tell you it is.  The rock you must climb over is not only that of technical ability (that can be dealt with quite easily) but also the huge boulder of self-belief.  This is a greater challenge yet more rewarding than any technical difficulty ever to be encountered.

Many pianists have excellent technical ability yet do not play from a calm Mind whereas there are those who do not have excellent technical ability yet have achieved a calm Mind; it is such an obvious difference to the awakened ear.

As mentioned above, it is ego noise which impedes the ever-flowing and ever-present inspirational source.  Apart from self-belief and technical ability targets, the ego also does a very good job at wanting to control every passing second and, for want of an analogy, acts as a doorman, ticking off individuals as they pass by and checking if they're dressed for the occasion.  Your job is to fire that doorman!

Let's take playing a new major scale recently acquired using both hands over two octaves.  By closing the eyes and allowing the fingers to do what they do best, the doorman has had his checklist taken away.  By setting a metronome to your natural limit through trial and error, the doorman has now been sent to the boss's office for a serious meeting.  By ignoring every single attempt of the ego to play too fast, get frustrated too quickly, compare the Self to others and question each and every natural finger position, the doorman has received his notice.  By knowing that, even when away from the piano, you are able to execute the major scale on your internal piano with the same confidence, the doorman has worked his final day.

In jazz improvisation, it is very common for the ego to neglect all the theory acquired to produce a nice impromptu melody, tell you it is not enough, that something is missing and that whatever is played is wrong, too simple or not imaginative enough.  This is, of course, madness.

A calm Mind will always result in honest execution; the ego has no say in the matter - the doorman has been fired.  Even using one finger and one major scale (or blues, or mode) over one chord, the inspirational source will do what it wants and it will be suitable because it was pure and uninterrupted; it was You... and that is not up for judgement or critique.

During practormance, then, no matter if the piece is known and no matter if technical ability is high, the inspirational source is ever-present and ever-available to make You sound like You, to do what You do, to represent You and provide only satisfying, suitable results.  Anything less than that is ego involvement and the removal of ego does not take place at the piano, it takes place away from it.

Consider this philosophy from the Water Pianism teachings:  Become an observer to the fingers; be as unaware of the next notes as the listeners and be as surprised as them when something beautiful appears.

It is so very important to realise that You, the one reading this, is not the one playing the piano.  Even as I write this, I observe the sentences which come to me from the inspirational source.  When I sit to play, such as in this video, I have no idea what will happen: nothing is prepared, expected, intended or forced; nothing is remembered, done for any specific reason or remembered by my conscious mind.

(a short , very relevant, inspirational clip from a film - no affiliation)

There is a very liberating feeling in experiencing the power of the inspirational source when not under the negative influence of the ego.  Fortunately, it can be experienced in many ways, not just at the piano.

Such negative traits are patience, excessive questioning and fear/embarrassment.

Patience can be dealt with by counting consciously to a high number, let's say 100 but not in seconds; even slower!

This is a marvellous way to train your ego to be silent as you enjoy the slow count up.  Another way is to sit anywhere in silence and stare at the wall without finding it boring.  The ego hates this one.

Excessive questioning refers to the doorman analogy above.  Simply stop questioning every note and trust that what is coming from the inspirational source is correct, honest and pure.

Fear is a dreadful trait of the ego.  It applies when alone and when performing publicly.  When alone, the fear is usually failure or slow progress.  Be sure that there is no failure, only Your natural progress.  When playing in public, realise that at least 90% of your audience couldn't and wouldn't do what you're doing; the other 10% max can, do and know how you feel.  This results in 100% of your audience behind you.

Relax, observe silently and play You.