Creativity is not something we generally associate with music practice. Our practice is more often about repetition and correction than about exploration and discovery.
Many music students don’t think of themselves as being “creative” in their music. They follow instructions, striving to become more proficient, to improve and to play well. Creativity is something reserved for people who compose and improvise, not for those who merely practice.
But you don’t have to compose to be musically creative. Each of us creates the music we play in a very real way, giving the notes on the page a voice, specifically our voice, infusing it with our personality. I believe it is essential to our musical satisfaction to recognize the creative element in our music-making and to nurture it daily.
You don’t think you can do this? It’s easier than you think.
Consider the engine of a car. It is the very heart of the car, the reason that the car can go wherever you want to drive it. It requires fuel and a spark, and your key to turn it on.
Your musical creativity is your engine; it’s your visceral, heart-felt connection to music, the reason you are drawn to music. It is unique to you, encompassing your personal strengths, interests, ideas and feelings. No one else’s “engine” is exactly like yours.
You fuel your engine with your daily practice. The regular development of your technique and musicianship is what keeps your engine humming. Each time you practice or play you are filling your tank with the essential ingredients necessary to achieve your musical goals.
You can find the necessary spark to ignite that fuel in whatever motivates you or inspires you. You might find inspiration in your lessons or in concerts you attend. We are inspired by listening, learning and exploring the world around us, musical and otherwise.
And that’s where your creativity comes into the picture. Your engine is fueled and ready to go. It’s running, but it’s still idling. Your engine needs somewhere to go.
So how do you direct all this creative power?
You put your whole self into your music, each and every day. Make your music about more than the notes; let your love for the music shine through. Give yourself permission, at least occasionally, to ignore the mistakes and play for the beauty of it, for the joy of music. Your music will be yours. And when you bring that creativity to the music you share with others, you will be able to touch those around you and fill them with that same joy.
Fuel it. Spark it. Drive it. Simple. Powerful. Joyful.