Here, in no particular order, is the first of a series of compilations of other people’s wisdom that I’d like to pass on to anyone trying to get better at their art. Some of this advice I have had the privilege of receiving first-hand, other bits I have seen, heard, or read in interviews, articles, books, instructional videos, and the like. All of these tips have helped me to advance my playing, both technically and in finding my ‘voice’ as a musician, in practice and on stage – so here’s sharing, along with my take-aways where appropriate. Quotes are in quotation marks, the rest is me paraphrasing.
There are only two things which exist on stage: that which is true, and that which is false.
– Leonard Foglia, to mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, on rendering a successful performance.
DiDonato expounds on this further by noting that truth on stage can be either ‘large’ or ‘small’, and so can falsity, but that being true to who or what you set out to be on stage will move your audience, whereas faking artistic integrity will not. Assuming you’ve paid your dues in practice, of course. 🙂
Imagine your technique to be a pane of glass, through which shines the music you deliver, and your interpretation, personality, and emotion. Becoming a great performer entails making (and keeping) this pane of glass clean.
– Dame Janet Baker.
I would further paraphrase by adding that I take this to mean that from the perspective of an audience, a successful rendition of a piece entails removing all obvious evidence of physical effort from the end result. Consciously develop technique that leads to your unconscious movements being efficient and effective.
First figure out your posture. Learn to sit with the guitar in a good resting position, without needing to hold it in place. This will help you to play more easily.
– Gabriel Bianco, in many a masterclass and workshop.
It makes a lot of sense when you consider that any amount of effort spared from finding one’s postural equilibrium will make it that much easier to focus on the business of playing.
Always take the time to tune your instrument well.
– Roland Dyens
Learn to relax your (right hand) fingers immediately after playing a note.
– Johannes Moller.
(On stage) First become comfortable with where you are and what you are doing. Attune your mind to the music you are about to present before you begin playing.
– Pepe Romero
There is no single good posture/position. Feel free to change things up, depending on how you feel and the demands of the piece you’re playing.
– Scott Tennant
You guitarists don’t get it, do you? It’s not about speed or volume, it’s about intensity!
– An experienced and well-respected American music critic whose name escapes me…I’ll come back and complete this citation!
Don’t waste time or effort when you’re practicing. Stay focused and only practice making the right movements. You’ll improve a lot faster.
– Heike Matthiesen
Play like yourself, not like your heroes.
– William Kanengiser
Within reason, your own interpretations are as valid as anyone else’s. And if you play in a way that’s true to yourself and your opinions about the music you’re playing, you’re more likely to share something of value. It goes back to what you probably heard growing up – be yourself.