I appreciate the responses thus far.
It’s been suggested that the idea “never do anything during practice that you don’t want to happen in a performance” is a negative and limiting perspective. That depends, however, on how one applies it. Whenever we encounter advice, we have a choice. We can follow it rigidly, in the most narrow interpretation possible. If so, then any advice devolves into an endless series of proscriptions, rejecting out of hand anything that doesn’t hew to the strict letter of the advice. That’s not what I advocate.
A better choice is to be creative with the advice. For example:
Sean Shibe wrote:I should also add that a practise session is as useful a forum for exploration as a forum for the pursuit of a flawless performance; the sole aim of technically perfect performance can result, in the short term, in a sterile interpretation. In the long term, more dangerously, it can lead to a general lack of imaginative musical scope.
Agreed, if one follows my advice rigidly. But consider a more creative response. Yes, mistakes are something one doesn’t want in performance. They’re not, however, the only things to avoid. Here’s another thing one doesn’t want: boredom. In a hierarchy of things to avoid during performance, boredom is high on the list. Indeed, as a performance goal, it outranks mere perfection. Who would prefer a note perfect and sterile performance over an emotionally compelling performance with a few missed notes?
Another former teacher of mine once said this: any solution, taken too far, becomes a problem.
Rasputin wrote:I can't help wondering how you know that that is how players who become pros practise though, or how you know it is those practice methods that make the difference. I see where you are coming from, but is this really observed fact or is more like educated guesswork?
I make no claim that my observations are scientifically verified. They’re opinions, nothing more. I would hope they’re informed opinions. At any rate, it’s up to the reader to decide if my opinions have merit.
Rasputin wrote:I also have a feeling that the answer to performance anxiety may have to do with accepting that you are going to make mistakes, and that trying to leverage the fear of mistakes in the way you suggest might push the player in the wrong direction. It doesn't sound like a very positive or pleasant headspace to live in either, though perhaps that's beside the point.
My response to Mr. Shibe is also applicable to this objection. To that, I’ll add this. To me, “never do anything during practice that you don’t want to happen in a performance” is simply a clear-eyed grasp of reality. We can choose to ignore this reality. (Most musicians do, more or less.) That doesn’t make the reality go away. Rather, it means we’ve chosen to ignore it. Seems to me an unsatisfactory response. It’s far better to accept the realities facing us. Once we do, we then can cultivate a positive response. It’s not inevitable that every response to a daunting reality must be a negative one.
Again, my thanks for the thoughtful comments.
A side note to Mr. Shibe. I recognize your name, and have heard your impressive playing on YouTube. (I notice also that you’ve performed alongside a player I admire: Petra Poláčková.) Your playing is higher on the totem pole than my own. So I’m humbled that you found my essay worthy of a response.
South Euclid, OH