Finding freedom

Since I have been adding improvisation to my daily practice, I can see improvement to several aspects of my playing. The first day I was playing in a clumsy and hesitant way, where my focus was lost several times during this short practice period. My constant judgement of my playing made me eventually stop after the first days and look at my score. Every note I was playing was a new thought, my ego was constantly adding an adjective to everything was happening, the note was not harmonically “correct”; I experienced clumsy fingers on the keyboard, and slow reactions... Nevertheless, I pushed myself to play 10 minutes every day, whatever was coming up in my mind.

After some weeks I started to see a difference in my playing. The notes were becoming more alive, and my ability to reproduce what was sounding into my head improved. I felt less judging and more freedom in my music. The composition changed depending on my feeling on the day, sometimes slow and more lyrical and some others faster and more rhythmical. Whatever came up, I tried to not ‘control’ my playing so I could let my own voice develop, without any kind of instruction or (positive or negative) judgment. Step by step it started to sense a melody rather than just a mix of ideas coming into my mind and trying to reproduce them all at the same time. They were all nice ideas separately, but they made no sense putting them all together in the same phrase.

In addition, the musical material needed time to become more fluent in my improvisation playing – the constant focus needed more patience in order to build it up. At the beginning of this practice I had several moments where I lost my concentration. There was absolutely no sense and no musical intentions. Therefore I was doubting if I would be able to persist for around 10-15 minutes playing alone and be able not to loose my focus, but after weeks I felt more engaged and less worried about being lost in thoughts and thus causing my playing to ‘collapse’.


Exploring connection between movement and sound

After some months of movement and improvisation workshops, I start to feel in my body the benefits of them. It is something I have to continue doing it for the rest of my life, but for now, I am able to talk about that. It is time to try these practices with my instrument.

Since I started to move in the right way – controlling the positions of my feet and feeling the energy of my body going directly down to the floor and feeling more grounded, my playing started to sound freer. Due to the fact the viola is an instrument that rests on the chest, the breathing can be high – provoking permanent tension in the upper body, affecting the sound and blocking natural movement.

Every time I practiced, I tried to think about how my body feels. Checking tensions, changing the position or release a tensed muscle. I noticed when my breath stopped and from where I was taking the breath –  if it was from the diaphragm or from the chest (which I then tried to correct).

After doing these practices over months: improvisation on my instrument and having a better knowledge of my body through movement – everything mentioned in the previous part “finding my freedom”, I can confirm all of the benefits already mentioned. I felt myself more engaged with my instrument, moving more freely, my sound sounds more alive, my interpretation of the score is richer, and the perspective of what is sounding when I am playing, more real. 


A documentation of my feeling during the sessions and how it made me feel about myself and my playing.

I recorded myself playing the Capriccio of Vieuxtemps for viola solo. There are two versions, one with the score and without moving, and the other where I play by heart, where I am moving in the space and the focus is on my body and the sound as if I would be listening myself from outside. The reason for this was to see the difference between playing just the notes, and playing involving my body and listening what is sounding related with the space.

The recording is playing from the score. During the playing I felt “secure” because of the score, but not really engaged with the music. I was not focussed on my playing, but in doing what is exactly written in the score, what I worked with my teacher, and how I worked the piece during my practicing, in other words, more technical things. Comparing both recordings, in the first one, the playing is not as free as the second.


In the second recording, during my playing, I felt sometimes worried about forgetting notes or making mistakes because I was playing by heart, For this reason, it is easy to hear small mistakes in recording 2. On the other hand, I enjoyed the playing more. I was moving my body with the music, feeling grounded on the floor and being aware of my body through the space. I kept my focus on my sound – focusing my perception of my playing in the room, as if I could leave my ears at the last chair of the room and I could listen myself from outside.

After listening to the recordings one week later, I wrote down what I felt different in both versions. The recording 1, with score, I had the feeling I was playing more like a robot and trying to be correct with what is written in the score. Sometimes I missed the breathing of the music and of taking time for enjoying harmonically some moments and some chords. I got almost no body expressiveness compared to the recording 2, my gaze was fixed on the floor, I did not pay attention to my posture, and it is easy to see the shoulders were tensed.

For recording 2: from the beginning there is a notable improvement in body expression. Moving through the space and feeling my instrument as part of my body, where the sound is more beautiful and personal and the music richer in colours. The music is breathing because I was aware of my breath and was able to give the music time to happen. The result was that it sounded alive; harmonically I was enjoying more the notes which lead to a better understanding of the piece and a better ability to communicate it. The expression of emotion was stronger, the body movements and facial expressions were totally engaged with my playing, helping my music to be expressed to the audience.