Life lessons are good, but totally inconvenient.
I learned something very valuable about myself last week: the camera and I are not friends. In fact, we don't even like to be in the same room as each other. The camera, for it's part, manages to capture my every flaw and dirty look, which somehow I didn't realize I was making. In return, after the first take of a recording session I lose my balance, slam my finger in a door, and proceed to let it all out as a lovely purple bruise starts to form underneath my nail. It's good stuff. If I didn't hate the camera so much I would invite a crew into my home and tape a reality show. My antics could amuse millions!
Unfortunately for me, video recording is a necessity in the modern field of entertainment. It's unavoidable, whether it's making YouTube videos and tutorials or taping auditions, as was the case for me last week. People these days need more than to just hear you - they want to see you as well. For auditions there are obvious reasons to prefer video. Firstly, it's much easier to ensure the person they're hearing is the person they're going to get. It's surprising how many people try to cheat in auditions, and sending in audio of somebody else playing is not exactly outside the realm of possibilities. Secondly, it can even out the playing field for those auditioning via video submission vs. those auditioning live. Most auditions require taped submissions to be done in a single take with no editing or splicing (much more obvious in video than audio), so as to be as close to a live audition as possible, where you can't stop and restart whenever something goes wrong. Inevitably it won't be perfect and a panel will want to see how you react and recover from a mistake. Thirdly, it's the best way to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a player. Most of the time recorded auditions are needed for summer programs and schools, and it is the ideal way for teachers to see how a canditate plays and where there is room for improvement in terms of set-up or technique.
I know what the solution is for me if I want to make better videos, and be more comfortable on screen - I have to practice at it. I need to make a more permanent set-up in my practice studio and practice every day with the camera recording. The idea is to not worry about mistakes, but to be natural, as if it wasn't there at all. I need to to also trick myself somehow when recording something for real, into thinking that it's the same. This is my ultimate goal - whenever performing live or in front of a camera, to feel as natural and comfortable as if I was at home in my studio with my big, shaggy, red rug and all my photos and pictures that I'm used to having in my line of sight. Luckily, I record at home, so...bonus. I just need to not be so camera shy.
To help me on this journey, I've started reading some books that I think will help me. One is The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green and Tim Gallwey, which (like the other Inner Game books) is designed to help the reader find enjoyment and ease in whatever task or job they are doing. In the case of music, to perform better under pressure. The other book is The New Toughness Training for Sports by James E. Loehr, which is similar in what it wants to achieve, it just changes the vocabulary a little. Different paths, same destination. I read Toughness Training at McGill, and while I appreciated the information, I did not really give myself the time and dedication to actually put the techniques into practice. Going through it again, I can actually pinpoint in recent auditions and performances what has happened to my mental game - whether things have improved or gotten worse.
Like most people, I have a hard time shutting up that little voice inside my head that gives a running commentary on everything I do. Whether it's "prepare the air!" "don't mess this up," or "oh, that sucked, you can do better than that," the impact is the same: I'm not focused on the task at hand, which is to serve the music to the best of my abilities. That little voice, while trying to be helpful (sometimes not), is limiting access to my potential. I know that now, and since I have more time than I used to I can dedicate more of my day to practicing my mental game, and not just the physical.
To help me on this journey, I'm going to use this space to track my progress, document my findings, and share my discoveries with the world. The first step is to make the committment to myself and put it in writing. Every week I will work on a chapter from The Inner Game while putting into practice one component of Toughness Training. To add to the challenge, tomorrow (Good Friday) is the only day off I'll have until May. I have work, a rehearsal, a gig, or some kind of committment every single day for the rest of April, so scheduling in time for everything is the first step. I will take the advice in Toughness Training, where scheduling in down time and periods of rest is crucial to the training regimen. Stay tuned later this week when I'll show you my schedule, and how I've decided to organize my training.