Classical Guitar Performance – Cutting Loose and Going For It

Cutting loose and going for it. Cutting loose is about letting go and letting the unconscious mind and your muscle memory and all that hard work and practice you’ve been putting in do its thing. It’s about trusting yourself.

What does that even mean when playing guitar? For me at least it means:

  • Resigning conscious control of what it is I’m playing.
  • Being really in the now and present with what I’m playing in exactly that one moment; living for the moment!
  • Not being concerned with the music I have just played and is now past.
  • Not becoming upset with any glitches or imperfections I may have played or thinking how I’d like to play that better and so on.
  • Not judging myself or thinking about what others may think.
  • Not allowing myself to get over-excited when I really nail something spectacularly.
  • Maintaining a calm, confident and centred (not ecstatic, not negative) demeanour when playing; just being.

Here are some ideas to help loosen you up and get you to trust yourself….

Why are you playing guitar? To make yourself and others happy or moved? Or to make yourself feel tense and horrible? Hopefully not the latter or you and I need to have words! Note that I say “make yourself…..” – only you can make yourself feel a certain emotion….Think about that one. And remember why you’re playing in the first place.

Close your eyes when you’re next practicing and really listen it to the sound you’re making. How does it sound? How does it feel to really focus in on your sound in this way? How could focusing in on your sound help you in a performance situation? It gives your conscious mind something to focus on and be occupied with so your unconscious mind and your body can get on with the job in hand (boom boom). It will also mean your sound quality remains top notch.

Practice getting in the zone, and quieting the active, bubbling, bouncing conscious mind and its whirling thoughts. Some daily meditation, or similar mind-body awareness practice can really help with this. I like to do daily Alexander Technique practice with my semi-supine position as it gets mind and body awareness working together – I become aware of both mental and physical tensions and practice noticing and letting go. It’s soooo relaxing…

This one’s for those who are ready to take it to the next level……. Say “bugger it! What is the worst that can happen?!” As special as you are and all that, no one is going to remember your performance in an hours time let alone that you played a B-flat instead of a B (if they even realised!), or that you skipped a section, or that you lost your place because you got excited. I promise you.

Think on it – do you remember any particular moments from the concerts and gigs you’ve been to as an audience member? Maybe a couple, but overall you remember them as fantastic experiences I bet?  People always remember the big picture rather than the little details, so give them a technicolour experience rather than something in muted tones!

And then pull it back a little

And when you’ve got that down pat it’s time to review, revise and perhaps look back a little in the other direction.

Sometimes cutting loose and really going for something may not always be entirely appropriate – Barrios and the idea of high-energy “cutting loose” seems to go well together. With a Bach prelude perhaps the interpretation of “cutting loose” needs to be tempered slightly.

In the act of getting excited and really going for something we may in fact over-egg the pudding and diminish it’s impact. This is then where we need to exercise a little, not restraint – I don’t think our playing should ever feel restrained, do you? – but refinement.

This is where we now work to define the point or range between totally, 100% “safe”, timid and indeed restrained playing and 100% playing by the seat of your pants, super exciting, edgy, risk-taking playing….. I call this the Rogers’ Cutting Loose Scale. Hah hah!

Where do your current repertoire pieces sit on this scale? Is it time to put a rocket up the proverbial backside of some of your playing? Is it time to bring some back down to earth a little?

Ooh before I forget…..

Watch out for a wee announcement tomorrow about an exciting new development for the blog. 🙂




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