It is not enough to play well mechanically and intellectually. Music is primarily an emotional language and most people do not listen to it to be impressed by mechanics, knowledge or sophistication. They want to be touched – to be emotionally moved. We need the mechanics to be able to play the notes, and we need musical knowledge to make sense of the notes, but “good” playing uses mechanics and knowledge simply as necessary tools to help communicate feelings and emotional states. In other words, mechanical and intellectual skills are not enough to be a good musician: we need psychological skills and understanding also.
Our psychology is what makes music from the notes. Psychology is the greatest part of musicality. It is only when we add our feelings to our mechanical skills and to our knowledge of the language of music, that we can convert the little black dots on the page of a music score into pure emotion: into a living, breathing, pulsating, vibrant representation of the essence of life itself. If we consider mechanical technique (and musical training) as a “tree” of skills and knowledge, then our psychology is, at the same time, the roots (our essential motivation), the soil (the nourishment), and both the flowers and the fruit (that which the listener enjoys) of this same tree.
But a healthy and expressive emotional psychology is not only our goal, it is also an essential element of our mechanical technique. Tension, fear, overexcitement, self-consciousness etc can make even the most simple and automated bodily movements become clumsy and awkward (what happens to our easy, natural walk when we have to walk in front of a large group of people who are all watching us?). Feeling confident, calm and centered can, on the other hand, make even the most difficult mechanical tasks easy and enjoyable.
The psychology of cello playing is no different to that of all other instruments. In fact, the psychology needed to play the cello well, is the same as that needed to do just about anything well – even to live well ! I can think of no better book to recommend – for cello playing as well as for life in general – than “The Inner Game of Tennis” by Timothy Gallwey.
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