A workshop I did with jazz pianist and Effortless Mastery author Kenny Werner changed my musical life. For me, his technique is described by this quote of his: ""The success of a performance is not determined by what I hear, but by the measure in which I could let go."". Sounds vague? Maybe a bit. But Mr. Werner gives very concrete exercises to practice this. Every run, phrase, etc. I study I now practice to not care, to let go. If I cannot play a certain run, I cannot let go. The technique itself is not the main goal though, this is very important. When I study like this - to be honest, it takes some will power - a practice session can be like a meditation in itself. If I really do it, I come out of my studio with more inspiration and energy than before.
To let the will to sound well go, is the key in the end.
And this brings me to another aspect during playing. How do you feel when you play? I never really thought about this. Until I started teaching. For me the main goal (until I met Mr. Werner) was to sound good and play well. Of course, it still is, but in my practice sessions I try to forget this. But I have a student who wants to feel well when he/she plays. Again, this is new to me.
This particular student wants to feel well, and if he (or she) does, the performance went well. But, to my ears, this is not always the case.
One thought pops into my mind: I often record my concerts, and I have noticed over the years that I play more interesting when I play with some resistance. This can be a mediocre reed, being slightly ill or tired (or very tired even!), bad acoustics. I think that with this resistance I give up the will to sound well and let go. I wish I didn't need it, but it is true many times. And lots of times when I feel well, when the airflow feels comfortable, my body feels relaxed, the sound is good and the reed is good (yes, I regularly find good reeds!), I notice I play a bit boring. Apparantly, I need to fight a little bit. This is my personality, when I think about it.
Of course, I cannot force this resistance, I wish I could. But music is too abstract. Too uncontrollable. And this is the magic of being a performer. And at the same time the hardest part of being one.
Sometimes we play fantastic and we felt bad on stage... Isn't that wonderful?!