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With My Eyes Closed


Greta Schmidt
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On those days when my fingers seem to forget where any intonation is (like today, for example!), I find that I start trying to fly through the pieces I usually play only to get more frustrated. But I've started closing my eyes when this happens and pulling in my focus and actually picture my fingers on the fingerboard. I'll start a slow scale up all the strings. This helps me stop the flight from fingers to sheet music and back and seems to quiet that sense of escaping speed.

It made me think today of the movie Star Wars (Episode IV, the first one) when Luke is training with his lightsabre against that floating orb. Sort of a "feel the force" when he had to put the helmet on so he couldn't see.

It's weird how fast the other senses pick up and sharpen into focus. My ears will ignore the distracting noises of husband and daughter (!) and will listen more to the violin sounds and it seems like my arms will perk up and get themselves properly aligned.

I was curious if anyone else closes their eyes and plays to get back on track or what other technique you might use to stop and focus and "feel the force".

- Greta

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You do that too? I find it a help when I start trying to rush through something while playing the viola..racing to get to the end of a piece and forgetting to actually listen closely to the notes I'm playing. I close my eyes sometimes, and either play a scale or a simple slow tune I've memorized. It lets my sense of hearing alone guide my fingers to produce the proper sound. It feels good to get drawn into that sound so completely that I don't hear background noises anymore. It's relaxing, and helps my concentration at the same time.

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I agree with you!

In my very brief experience performing on the violin from memory I've found it helps me tremendously when I close my eyes during the performances. "Quieting" is exactly how I feel it...I feel like I'm in a quiet room and focus only on the sounds pouring out. The one time I tried to keep my eyes open but focus off into the distance I had a horrible memory lapse and in general did not feel very solid. Could be coincidence (I was also very sick that day) but I don't think so. I feel much more focused and "into" the piece that way. It doesn't seem to matter as much when I'm just at home or when I don't feel like anyone is really paying attention, but I do find that I "unfocus" my eyes so that I'm not really looking at anything in particular when I need to concentrate on something that I know from memory. I wonder how many professional soloists play with their eyes closed.

I also think this would NOT help me with playing the piano. I don't look at my hands much at all when I know a piece well, and I find it easier to unfocus my eyes while they are open since I'm not facing an audience directly in that situation.

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When I was younger, I used to go into "the zone" on stage. I'd sort of glaze over and just play.

Nowadays, I'm pretty much in "the zone" all the time - including during practice sessions.

The difference is that I'm fully aware of everything going on in and around me now, whereas in the past I'd selectively try to block out things by going into my "no-mind" state.

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Greta:

Now that I am playing tunes and exercises that require shifting back and forth between first and third positions, I find that if I don't close my eyes, my intonation gets off track.

The pieces that I'm playing have me shifting on all four fingers, back and forth every couple of notes, and it's very easy to lose track of the notes that I'm supposed to be playing and the sound that they should be making. Closing my eyes is essential right now for me staying on pitch with so much shifting around.

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One of my favorite practice time is in the early morning in the pitch black by myself. No brothers or parents to complain about fiddle tunes just a chance to reflect on things. That's one thing I hate is noise (cars, people etc.), I love just listening without any noise when it's completly quiet.

newfie

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I sometimes close my eyes at session to block distractions. Sometimes other people's bowing drives me to distraction. I was formerly trained classically years ago, so when I am playing with people and suddenly bows are going every which way, it can become very disturbing to me. (In my former playing life, all bows were supposed to go the same way at the same time.)

Yankee Fiddler

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I used to close my eyes while practicing, thinking it would help with intonation too. Unfortunately, I was a grad student and not sleeping much, so I would basically get really sleepy, but you are right it does help you get focused. I was working more for knowing the finerboard by feel, rather than by sight.

Let me give you words from the wise. Dont try it while you are walking!!!! laugh.gif

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quote:

Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:

When I was younger, I used to go into "the zone" on stage. I'd sort of glaze over and just play.

Nowadays, I'm pretty much in "the zone" all the time - including during practice sessions.

The difference is that I'm fully aware of everything going on in and around me now, whereas in the past I'd selectively try to block out things by going into my "no-mind" state.

Hello! Well... I was wondering, do you think that when you get to be a professional, or whatever - just really "good", you tend to sub-consciously take up the same mannarisms and such other professional (or really "good") people do? I was just wondering... I dont know... When i get REALLY into practicing, I, at least think so, go into "the zone", as HKV very well put it. Although, when I am onstange, I am 265.78 % aware of my surroundings and I can't PLAY FOR ANYTHING when I'm on stange... WHY OH WHY?! But yes... I'm calm now... Breathe...

laugh.giflaugh.giflaugh.giflaugh.gif

P

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quote:

Originally posted by paganiniboy:

when I am onstange, I am 265.78 % aware of my surroundings and I can't PLAY FOR ANYTHING when I'm on stange... WHY OH WHY?!

I'm sure everyone has had similar experiences with on-stage jitters. I used to feel *very* self-conscious until one day I realized that the audience was also part of the performance; that we were all there together to have fun and enjoy the music.

As to the topic of this thread: I don't think I ever play with closed eyes, but I do have that "unfocusing" my eyes, zoning out thing, especially when I'm at home and just playing for my own enjoyment. Like Tom Q said: no past, no future, just now. I've also been part of performances when the "stopped time" phenomenon happened, and there's nothing else like it.

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I always close my eyes because when you do that there is one less sence you are recieving - mainly your brain isnt reacting to visual stimulus obviously.

As a result, you concentrate more on what you hear, which that is what you want. It is possble this increased concentration might not even be noticible. It always helps me when I close my eyes because I really seem to concentrate more on the exact tone and intonation and quality of execution of a phrase. It also somehow makes me more intune with what Im feeling inside somehow and makes what Im feeling part of what I hear at the time Im trying to execute something. That is to say Im always trying to play things the way I hear them after I have learned all the notes and have been trying to play something for a while.

Playing with my eyes closed somehow forces me to include my emotions in how I play the notes. Certainly is is not only important to play the notes as written, but more importantly to me are the nuances of phrasing and vibrato and feeling of a piece and being intune with what inner voice you hear in your head is where I believe an artist can get their sence of individualism and what makes them them when playing the piece.

When I teach, this is an area I try to explain. How to learn all the notes, forget them and just pay attantion to how each individual hears the piece in their own mind.

And also how easily we forget to consiously force ourselves to just realx and pay attention to our instincts. I can not stress this enough because it is important to not just go through the motions but for every note to come from the deepest part inside you and inspiration seems to come and go most of the time. I used to play this video game just because it requited me to be very responsive to stimulus and react quickly. I useed this as an exercise for me to trust my instincs so I could respond on the violin to what I was hearing in my head at the speed that I think of it. Thats what Im talking about, learning to trust and respond to your instinct at the speed of thought.

Learn every note then forget it and come back to it later. After that, the main thing about music for me is what lies between the notes. Music is about feelings and emotions and that is what it is all about, not how fast you can play 64th notes and if you hit every blip correctly and with correct intonation.

Ill say it one more time, its what lies between the notes and its about the music having feeling amd releasing your emotions and being in tune with how you feel. Someone who does not understand their own feeling wouldnt make a great violinist. Let it come out of you, from inside you. Be one with the sound coming from your instrument. Somehow closing myt eyes helps me do this.

Raising your awareness, seems to be a Zen Bhuddist concept but Im into that stuff and meditation and everything, may the force be with you!

These are all things we are aware of but there is a definite need to continuously remind ourselves because its so easy to not pay attention to what our instincts and inner feelings are. Sometimes I dont know how Im feeling at times until later, it can be a little strange trying to understand what your feeling are.

But most of all for me, the violin is about romance and the music for me is about love and pain and joy and anger and jealousy and all the emotions invloved with living ones life. When I play a song it reminds me of who I was when I first heard the piece and who I was with and the people I knew and stuff and all of that seems to trigger an emotional response with all the memories that it brings up.

Well thanks for listening to me ramble.

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Violin-Arts, you're "Force Sensitive".

Go to my old post "May The Force Be With You" - there are several others here like you and myself.

I don't close my eyes onstage because I feel that I generate tension in my audience by doing so.

For sure, I generate internal tension by closing my eyes. The muscle effort it takes for me to do so causes me to give the impression of suffering on stage.

I also need my eyes to gauge audience response and to match the music to the environment.

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