I was having a conversation with a former student of mine very recently (you know who you are!) about the need to trust and believe in oneself when playing classical guitar. It’s a thought that I’ve held true for some time now, but admittedly can be a pretty tough one to manage. Like a number of things, however, it’s a skill or an ability that doesn’t necessarily come easy at first, but the more that you practice doing it the less challenging it becomes.
What’s so important about trusting yourself when playing?
Trusting yourself is allowing yourself to make the music that you want to make (within your current technical abilities of course) and that that is that (whatever your level or technical ability is). Just is. Things can always be improved, tweaked and so on. It doesn’t mean that what you’re playing right now isn’t wonderful. Accepting this fact, and accepting that what you’re playing right now and how you’re playing it – trusting yourself in that – is just a snapshot in time in your journey with the guitar . This concept, for myself at least, has been quite liberating. Giving myself permission to trust myself!
How do you go about learning to trust yourself?
This is really about letting go of expectations. Not expecting yourself to play in a certain way. Not putting pressure on yourself.
It’s about recognising that you’ve done a lot of work – think about all the practice you’ve done over the years, months, weeks and so on.
It’s about trusting that subconscious part of your brain, the part that you’ve been filing things away into and reinforcing with your regular, habitual practice. It’s about trusting that that part of the brain knows how to do its thing, especially when you’re relaxed and not putting undue stress on it. You know how when you’re racking your brain to try and think of a name or something you can’t remember? It’s just on the tip of your tongue? The more and more you try and think about it, the harder it becomes to think about it? Well, I’m guessing something similar goes on when we’re putting stress on ourselves to play in a certain way. Don’t try so hard, don’t think so much and the brain and the body will help you do your thing.
Trust that your muscle memory and all that hard work and practice you’ve been putting in will work for you.
Be “in the now” with what you’re playing in exactly that one moment – don’t worry about what you’ve just played or what’s coming up next. Just focus on the moment.
Try to maintain a calm, confident and centred demeanour when playing. Just sit with the music and almost feel like it’s coming through you rather than you trying to contrive it