Henry van Dyke on Performance, Perfectionism, and the Art of Sharing
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”
Henry van Dyke
How good do we need to be before sharing our music with someone?
Do we need to get to a particular level or speed before letting someone hear us play?
One of the mistakes we often make is thinking that playing music is about us. It’s not. When we play music for someone, the act itself is the point.
Kids are comfortable with this. They can draw a picture and present it as a gift without any notion of “not-enoughness”. They don’t feel the need for their art to be museum-quality. It comes out, and they pass it along. Clean and easy.
But as adults we think we’re already supposed to sound perfect. We compare our daily practice to a professional’s edited studio recording and find ourselves wanting.
This is akin to not leaving the house because we don’t look like the airbrushed models in the magazine ad.
Sharing music can be scary, sure. We put ourselves in a vulnerable position. We remove our armor and expose our soft underbellies.
But if we select our audience carefully, and show up with enthusiasm and generosity, it usually goes well.
Not only do we build confidence and enjoy a personal victory over our ego, but we also inspire others to do the same. And that’s a gift as well!
Music is communication, and it truly is the thought that counts.
Hi, I’m Allen Mathews.
I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
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