TIP OF THE DAY

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Performing on the Kalimba:
Get Used to Being Distracted

My banjo-playing friend Tim Wiedenkeller says that when you perform, you just need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. A lot of what Tim is talking about relates to the sound equipment - you might not be able to hear yourself in the monitors, or you are fearful that your instrument isn't coming through the way it should. Well, if you are thinking those things, you aren't going to perform very well. You have to be comfortable with The Moment and the way you are sitting in it to play your best. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

But there are other distractions when you perform. Cell phones, people talking, flies buzzing around your eyes, an itchy shirt, coffee grinders, or even the presence of people. If you've read many of these Tips, you know that I love to play kalimba as I walk down the street. Not only is that a great way to really get the beat into your kalimba playing, but it is also a great way to get used to distractions. Cars honking. Dogs barking. People staring. And every now and then, a sign post will suddenly appear about 6 inches away from my face (I've never actually hit my head on anything while playing kalimba and walking). There is a lot to deal with - playing kalimba sort of takes you out of this world, and your body and reptilian brain are left to navigate the world without your attention. If you can do that while you play kalimba, it is a good first step to being able to navigate the distractions of a performance.

Of course, our goal is to be in a "Carnegie Hall" type performance, where everyone is hushed and expecting wonderful music, and in these cases the audience just sort of pulls the great music right out of you. But not every performance works that way.

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