Playing what you hear vs. the instrument playing YOU

If we break down our focus of “playing like singing in the shower” into its component parts, using our hard-earned Intervallic Awareness to help us find the notes, we would end up with some scheme such as:

  1. Imagine a melody (the “Inner Melody”)
  2. Guess the starting note and the following moves that make it up
  3. Play the moves on your instrument.

That would be the ideal situation. But in this fascinating discussion about the Inner Melody, veteran sax icon Lee Konitz asks what can you possibly be hearing with all the notes you and the band are pumping out at the same time  He debunks the idea that you can play what you “honestly” are hearing in your Inner Ear in a live situation.

His interviewer pleads alternative possible ways of sourcing the Inner Melody in a playing situation, but Lee is having none of it.

Thankfully you can use your practice time to work on this problem. In another video Jean-Michel Pilc has some cool tricks to help you play what you hear vs. the instrument playing YOU.

Practicing a tune in your head can be just as effective. You don’t even need to actually move your fingers or put the horn in your mouth. I like to do it when I’m going to sleep, visualizing the moves on my Inner Panpipes.

One problem commonly mentioned by improvisers is the recurrent theme of having your fingers run away with themselves. Fingers develop habits too easily. Being at arm’s length from the brain they are hard-wired to develop habits and routines. That is great when your task is to tie your shoe laces. But is that how you want to play music?

One reason why I find it so easy to connect with my Inner Melody when improvising on panpipes is probably that the neck muscles I use are so close to the voice muscles that they both get their directions from the same area of the brain. It even lets you skip step 2 (above)!

So maybe the solution to playing like singing in the shower is just to get yourself a wholetone panflute!

Follow me on Twitter @jazzpanflute

About jazzpanflute

jazz panpipe pioneer and designer
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