Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Inner Game

What about the Inner Game? (Maybe you're asking, "What is the Inner Game?")

I mentioned the Inner Game very early in this blog, but I didn't address it at that time. The "Inner Game" comes from a book on tennis playing in which author Timothy Gallwey discussed "that which takes place in the mind, played against such elusive opponents as nervousness, self doubt, and fear of failure." Gallwey's approach to tennis playing eventually led to a collaboration with musician Barry Greene and the creation of The Inner Game of Music.

My interpretation of the Inner Game is that it's the little voice running in your head when you're performing. It happens when there's music in front of you, and it happens when you're playing by heart. With music, it can be a big distraction; without music, it can be deadly. Sometimes, it's a negative voice reminding you of how nervous you are. Other times, it's a positive voice telling you that things are going really well--after which you invariably make a mistake. The Inner Game will never really go away, so you must learn how to manage it and, if possible, have it work for you. Giving practice performances is an excellent way to find out exactly how your Inner Game is affecting your ability to play from memory. Just like memorization, you need not be afraid of it. You just have to harness it.

In the practice room, the Inner Game is an entirely different problem. Normally, you're not nervous in the practice room--unless you're using one of the practice techniques I discussed in an earlier post. For this reason, the practice room Inner Game is more about the wandering mind. I'm an expert at the wandering mind in the practice room! This is another reason I use a practice log. Should something important come to mind while I'm practicing, I'll jot it down in the log as soon as possible. This has the dual effect of getting it out of my mind while also helping me to remember it later on. My use of landmarks also helps to keep my wandering mind at bay. By working in small sections, I don't have to have a long attention span, and my wandering opportunities are minimized.

All in all, it's of utmost importance to recognize the Inner Game when it's occurring, both on stage and off stage. Because what goes on in the practice room invariably influences what happens on stage, it's imperative that you are not feeding the Inner Game by allowing your mind to wander without any sort of discipline or awareness. And aside from the distracting factor of the Inner Game, you also want to be totally present when you're playing. After all, that's what you've been working so hard to do!