Play with Feeling!
Updated: Nov 1, 2019
Feeling is Supplied by the Listener.
"Man! That guy is playing with SO much feeling!" - Says you in awe of the performance you're witnessing right now.
Is he? How do you know what that musician is feeling? By his playing? His expression? His body language? Think about it; all those things - facility on an instrument, facial expressions, body language - all those things are mechanical - they can be engaged completely independently of how the performer is actually feeling - it's called, "acting" - and all good performers are good actors. Good con men are good actors. Good salesmen are good actors. Anyone who deals with the public successfully is a good actor. And good performers are good actors - by definition.
I'm not saying it's always an act - sometimes the performer is ACTUALLY feeling what he's doing; that's the ideal - but there's no way for an audience member to know for sure whether he is or isn't - IF he's a good performer and has his stagecraft together.
All these things - facility on an instrument, facial expression, body language, clothes, lights, stage setup etc. - all these things are languages. Think about facial expression and body language when you talk. If you want to emphasize a word, "Well THAT sucks!" On the word, "that", not only did you say it louder, you probably raised your eyebrows and moved your head. Maybe you gestured with your hands on that word. You reinforced the emphasis - the inflection - on the word by integrating facial expression and body language. A good performance happens when all the languages integrate and say the same thing. And all these things are mechanical and don't require feeling on the part of the performer. They function to give meaning to spoken language and in musical language they function to cause feeling in the listener because...
FEELING IS THE MEANING OF MUSIC!
Furthermore, when you said, "Man! That guy is playing with SO much feeling!" weren't you REALLY talking about your own feeling? I would suggest that you only know what YOU feel. How do you know what he's feeling? He might be acting. What you're REALLY saying is something like; "Something that guy is doing is causing an emotional response in me!"
So, as a performer, the question then becomes, "What can I do to cause an emotional response in the listener?"
Short answer: Play with a distinct sense of phrasing, employ extreme inflection - the more the better - and integrate it with facial expression, body language and everything else that you do - just like when you talk.
Want to see how this works out in music? Watch this short lesson on "Concepts for Basic Improvising."
How did I learn this? Well, it was a process of trial-and-error as a result of constant gigging, night after night, for years and years.
Stay tuned, because I plan to write a series of blogs that tell the story and prove the point - I'll probably change the names to protect the not-so-innocent!
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