Fraser Pash gives us the low down of his recent performance.
I sat there sipping on my drink wondering ‘what the hell are we listening to?’ I’m up next and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to play. I’ve spent weeks practicing a song. Trying out different tunings and transpositions to get the best sound out of my guitar and my voice. But I’ve started to doubt; not myself, but my song choice. Everyone else who has gone up to the mic and chortled out some recent pop song has been mediocre at best.
It was at this point that I decided, f*ck it. I’m going to play my own song.
Maybe I’m more comfortable playing my own music, maybe I enjoy the higher risk of judgement from letting people hear it. I’ve never been able to pinpoint exactly what it is about playing my own music that triggers flow. But as I sang every note perfectly, ad-libbing to great effect, I felt happy. An almost endless happiness, totally in flow. That was of course until the song finished and I was left standing alone in a room of three hundred people.
Immediately afterwards, I answered some questions about the song. As my memory glanced back to the song I had been playing minutes earlier, I started to think about how it felt like it had been weeks ago, not minutes ago. I also realised that I cared a bit more about playing that night than I thought I had. The outcome is not really important, but the performance is.
Whilst there is little to no research done to consider the correlation between playing one’s own music and playing someon e else’s, there is plenty done to reveal the relationship between flow and music as a whole (although there’s always opportunity for more). We mentioned a study done not too long ago discussing the correlation between length of time playing an instrument and the actual instrument played and flow. Finding that string players and those who have been playing for a longer time, particularly with extensive practice hours, are more likely to reach a state of flow. But it is research from the University of London that is of particular interest to this article.
Their findings revealed “flow was predicted by the amount of daily practice and trait emotional intelligence”. Now the first part of this should really be a given. The more we practice, the greater our myelin production, the better our muscle memory, the more skilled we become, the higher the ability-challenge level we can set for ourselves, and ultimately the greater intensity of flow we can feel. However, emotional intelligence still needs a lot more research before its relationship to flow is fully understood. The aforementioned study also notes a link between the style of music played and flow, with a positive correlation between the romantic styles of Chopin in particular and flow. Now this could be due to increased exposure to a certain composer or style, but equally it could be that the pianists in the study found flow whilst playing music they liked.
It is here that the research gap exists. If we assume that the music created by an individual is also liked by that individual. Does playing your own music have a positive impact on reaching a state of flow?
If we throw ourselves into a performance situation, suddenly we have high risk, immediate feedback and a rich environment priming us for flow.
So why not try it? Today, instead of practicing someone else’s piece, write your own. Just play what comes out of you and gradually structure it into a composition. You might find you reach flow sooner than you think.
Thanks for this Article to Fraser Pash and friend of The Flow Centre.