I recently began reading The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green at the recommendation of The Neophyte Cellist. In it he talks about the “inner voice” that we all have, the one that tells us all the reasons we are not good enough and gets in the way of our performance as musicians. He even put it into a nifty little equation:
P = p – i
where P is your performance, p is your potential, and i is your inner voice.
We all understand this from experience: we convince ourselves we’re going to mess up at our recital, are shaking before we’ve even pulled the cello out of the case, and sound awful because we’re shaking so bad from being afraid that we’ll sound bad. Self fulfilling prophecy fulfilled! Then, in order to sound better next time, we work extra hard. We think that by being more prepared and having learned more we will not only increase our potential, but will decrease the voice in our head because we will have gotten better so our friend i will have less to talk to us about. Right? Nope. Generally that leads to more neuroses and worse overall performance.
Barry Green has the idea that in order to increase P we need to work on reducing i. Not as a substitute for practice and learning, but as another means to better the results of our playing.
That’s about as far as I’ve gotten in the book, and I like it. That inner voice is rather problematic and I’d really love to learn to work with it. So, I had this idea to write down what my inner voice tells me, so that I can really work with it. Usually I avoid this voice because it terrifies me. There have been several times it has nearly convinced me to stop playing cello. So, here it is for all to see, what my inner voice has to say to me:
You are a terrible cellist.
Your vibrato is awful.
You really need to quit playing cello because you’ll never be any good.
You’re an idiot to think that you can ever achieve any amount of competency at playing this instrument.
You would have had to start playing as a child to be any good. Why bother?
You started playing 20 years after you should have.
You need to make up for starting so late.
Your sense of rhythm is abysmal.
You’ll never accomplish as much as you could have if you’d started younger.
Seriously, stop playing cello.
Why haven’t you listened to me yet? Are you that much of an idiot?
Even if you achieve some minimal level of competency who would want to play with you?
You deserve for that jerk who works at the music store to chide you every time you come in.
You seriously decided to work part time at the library so you can study this instrument and take music theory classes? What an idiot!
Can’t you see how slow you learn now compared to how fast you learned as a kid? Your brain just can’t do this.
I’m sure i has come up with a whole lot more in the past but I’ve had a habit of trying not to pay attention.