A Love Affair to Remember
I was late for school on that day in 5th grade when we picked instruments to play, and the only one left to rent was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Even without hearing its beautiful tones, I was fascinated. I took that oddly shaped “French” horn home and have been playing it ever since. Love is a complex and multifaceted emotion that can manifest in various forms. It encompasses a deep and genuine affection, care, and connection. I didn’t know what it was or what I was getting myself into back then, but the love affair between me and the horn and the music continues today so many, many, many years later.
Love and music are universal languages best expressed with feelings and actions, and playing a musical instrument is a unique way to express yourself. A beautiful synergy can be harnessed as this shared essence expresses the music. The interconnectedness between you and the horn allows for a profound and immersive experience. When you and the horn and the music are connected with a unified mindset, a love affair unfolds in a musical experience that transcends time and space. The intimate connection between you, the horn, and the music culminates in a mesmerizing symphony born from their passionate embrace.
Expressing The Universal
Parallels between love and music can be found in the depth of emotion they can evoke, the ability to connect people on a profound level, and the universal nature of their appeal. If someday we find intelligent life somewhere in the universe, they will likely express love and make music. If ears they have, that is.
Music and love are also similar in expression and communication. People often use music and expressions of love to share experiences and create meaningful connections. Expressing love often involves spontaneous and instinctual actions. When love is expressed without thought or planning, it flows effortlessly. The parts of the brain working together to communicate these actions are the same parts of the brain activating motor functions with feelings and emotions while singing or playing a musical instrument.
Neuroscience: A Complex Field
Our understanding of the brain’s intricacies is continually evolving. Playing a musical instrument involves motor functions and coordination, primarily controlled by the motor cortex. The motor cortex is responsible for planning, executing, and coordinating voluntary movements, but the movements made while making music don’t all feel voluntary.
Your subconscious inner musician and muscle memory are involved in the process. The body receives signals from various brain centers. The clearer the signals, the better they work together to produce the desired musical output. Music is a language every cell in our body speaks, and vibrations and frequencies can drive the body into involuntary action. If a song in your head is the conscious voluntary movement leading the way, different parts of your brain will speak the same language and links to help communication form to connect them. The clear signals from your mental song will coordinate the body to play the sounds in your head with flow and expression.
Your Brain Grows if You Use It
The brain area associated with the immediate and visceral aspects of emotional responses, the limbic system, particularly the amygdala and the hippocampus, plays a crucial role in processing emotions, forming memories, and regulating social and emotional behavior. While the limbic system and motor cortex serve different functions, they can be connected.
Neuroplasticity shows that our brains can form new connections. The brain grows and changes to meet our needs. Engaging in activities like playing a musical instrument stimulates the release of neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and reward, linking the emotional and motor aspects of the brain. Our experience with the instrument forms connections that link the physical and emotional centers as we play. With more playing, the ability to express emotion and feelings with our phrasing blossoms and matures. My experience tells me that the more I play the horn, the more I love playing music with it.
My Horn Voice
Singing is an art deeply connected to the breath. Vocalists understand the importance of controlled breathing to maintain pitch, sustain notes, and convey emotions effectively. Singers effortlessly modulate their volume and intensity to convey different emotions, whether in a soft, heartfelt ballad or a powerful chorus. Just as singers use their breath to shape phrases, wind instrumentalists learn to manipulate their breath to add nuance and emotion to their playing. By natural expression, musicians can create a more lyrical and emotive performance. The music flows from within.
Brass instruments require a similar mastery of breath control. This involves a delicate balance of air support and embouchure control to produce a wide range of expressive dynamics. Viewing the instrument as an extension of your voice helps create a seamless connection between you and the horn. When approached with a vocal mindset, brass instruments can emulate the natural dynamics of the human voice. Applying a singing mindset to horn playing allows a more expressive and nuanced performance.
Your Mental Approach
The mental approach to playing instruments, especially those that involve breath control, is of the utmost importance. Playing wind instruments requires a strong connection between breath control and musical expression. You gain expressive freedom by embracing the body and instrument as one and an extension of yourself. You can experiment with phrasing, dynamics, and tonal colors, confident that the horn will faithfully translate these intentions into sound.
When we sing, we rely on intuition and a natural flow of expression. We don’t consciously think about each note and phrase. Rather than overthinking every note, we let the breath guide the phrasing and expression. This intuitive approach can be applied to playing instruments as well.
A Unified Mindset
The distinction between voice and instrument blurs when approached with a unified mindset. Playing a horn with the same mental approach as singing creates a harmonious connection between the musician and the instrument. By embracing the idea of singing while we play the horn, breath control, expressive phrasing, dynamics, and a creative mindset follow naturally. Horn players can elevate their performances to new heights, captivating audiences with the soulful essence that both singing and horn playing share.
The ability to let the music play you is a testament to the unified, deep connection and understanding between you and the music. It goes beyond technical proficiency and delves into artistic expression and emotional resonance. This musical immersion can lead to powerful performances and a rich, authentic musical experience for you and the audience.
Sing What You Play and Play What You Sing
Connecting emotionally with the music you’re playing enhances your ability to perform with feeling. We can feel this connection best by singing the phrase we want to play on the horn with our voice. Singing helps us internalize the music and play more expressively. It can also improve our sense of timing and phrasing. Singing can be used to practice melodic lines, improvisation, and understanding the structure of a piece. When we sing, we naturally use our phrasing as a tool to shape the musical narrative.
The most significant benefit is the understanding of how we think while we are in the act of singing with our voices. Thinking the same way while playing an instrument limits the thinking process, allowing the music’s flow to produce physical actions. We don’t need to think. We just sing, and the body knows what we want and does its best to make that happen.
Mentally imagining the music allows the internal auditory imagery to guide the physical actions. This seamlessly integrates the musician, the instrument, and the music. Lose sight of yourself, and allow the musical intention to move your physical body and instrument. The music activates you, and the horn, your silent companion, waits to be summoned. Its curves and contours will echo the sentiment of the unspoken page. If you are a devoted lover with your heart entwined with the horn and the music, the music is alive, and your soul breathes life into the notes, transforming the instrument into a vessel of profound expression.
Achieving this flow state enhances the musical experience. Letting go of self-consciousness and surrendering to the music allows for a more intuitive and authentic expression. The boundaries between the musician and the instrument blur, and the music flows effortlessly through you. Like a sorcerer’s spell, the mystical union of artist, tool, and music awakens the total mechanism to create an enchanting symphony. A fusion of harmonic expression driven by a love of creating music.
The Music as the Catalyst
The Music is not merely a composition but an enchanting elixir that activates the total mechanism. From a cocoon of silence, an alchemical transformation occurs. As the musician and instrument merge, the music flows through their combined essence, awakening a dormant force that brings the entire apparatus to life. Music is the catalyst that sparks the intricate dance of harmony and rhythm. The music whispers secrets and shouts declarations in an audible manifestation of the profound connection between you and the horn. The musician and the instrument seamlessly meld into a singular entity, and the music is a magical catalyst that sets the entire mechanism ablaze.
When the music takes over, so does the oneness of the musician and instrument. The total mechanism reaches its zenith in this climactic moment, and the boundaries between you and the instrument evaporate. A harmonious symphony remains, an ode to the unity achieved when artist, instrument, and music become indistinguishably intertwined. Whether in a jazz ballad’s melancholy melodies or a classical opus’s triumphant tones, the love affair is woven into every sound, creating an emotional tapestry to captivate any listener.
Love The Stage
On stage, you and the instrument engage in a dance of unity. Your fingers become extensions of the instrument, a dialogue unfolding in every stroke and every breath. Boundaries blur, and two entities fuse, creating a symbiotic relationship that transcends the physical and enters the metaphysical realm. The instrument ceases to be a mere object and is an extension of your soul. Every curve, every key, resonates with the essence of the artist deep in your subconscious.
In this union, the instrument becomes a living, breathing entity, responding to your touch with a sensitivity that mirrors the heartbeat of this shared existence. The total mechanism, now activated, becomes a conduit for your expression. You create a harmonious dialogue, a dance of passion and precision that resonates with your audience.
Trust and Forgiveness
The path of love is not always smooth, and our musical performance can have challenging moments. Technical hurdles, creative blocks, and moments of self-doubt are all part of the game. These challenges can be tackled efficiently with less tension. Thoughts cause tension, especially thoughts of self-doubt or fear of failure. Trust and forgiveness are your allies. Love is incomplete without trust and forgiveness. A fearless attitude will be wasted without trust.
Horn players must trust themselves implicitly and trust with no care about the results. The horn and body become a trusted companion on the musical voyage, responding to our intentions and emotions. This trust enables us to explore new horizons in our performance, unburdened by doubt or hesitation.
Relax and Sing
In the dim glow of the spotlight, amidst the hushed anticipation of the audience, you relax, knowing that you can rely on your singing. With a singular focus on singing what you’re playing, the musical union perseveres, drawing strength from the enduring bond between you, the horn, and the music.
With trust in this bond, the music soars to new heights, a testament to the resilience of your connection. Trust yourself, trust the horn, and let the music lead your way. Dance like no one is watching and play like nobody’s hearing, especially you. You can’t be an audience member and a performer simultaneously. Your ears hear the past, and you’re singing in the present. Forgive mistakes before they happen, and you will better navigate them when they do. Play as if you don’t care how it sounds. You’re too busy singing to listen. All you hear are the perfect sounds you are singing in your head, and with trust in your singing, the audience will hear them, too.