January 25, 2016

The Psychological Process of Playing

The mind is as important as the body when it comes to playing the piano. Tomoko has much advice about this aspect of musicianship.

What makes for a good pianist? Tomoko asserts: “Both hand coordination AND brain power.” Tomoko interviews potential students as part of the process of deciding whether to accept them. In those discussions, the person’s mind and personality come into play. “You can tell taste,” she says.  “You can get at their motivation. You can tell if they are willing to discipline themselves.”

As for teaching, her guidance is not just technical. “Advice should always be warm and good.” She adds, “I use my judgment about the piece and the student. It’s psychological.”

“When starting to learn a piece with lyrics,” Tomoko says, “you need to start with the words. What is the meaning? What is the philosophy of the lyricist?” Learning the notes and how to play them also requires understanding the composer’s style; “What is the feeling? How does the phrasing convey the message?” Whatever the process, Tomoko says, “Approach the piece with curiosity. It is like visiting a new city. Explore and get to know the music.”

Practice is psychological too. “Practice is like gardening,” Tomoko asserts. “You need to do it every day and pay attention to all the details.”  She adds, “It requires patience. Sometimes you don’t see the growth for a long time, but it is worth the ongoing effort.”

Recitals also demand psychological attention. “You need to be both technically and psychologically ready.” What is the payoff for such effort? “It focuses you, and lifts you up,” concludes Tomoko.