A long time ago, I noticed that if I could not keep my breathing relatively free while playing a piece of music, I could not properly play the piece of music. What the psycho-physical reason is for this I am not sure, but as my ability to breathe through a piece improved so did the music. Is it unnecessary tension involving anticipated mistakes or difficult sections? Is it fear? Is it hearing critical voices from the past? Hearing my own judgemental self?
Just breathe. That simple. Easy - not actually. These past days I've been working on difficult passages in four different pieces that may be recorded tomorrow. Yesterday I began playing with the idea of being free to breath through my mistakes, be they real or anticipated. Today as I was practicing I decided to introduce a recovery period. I'd play through the difficult section, then give myself a few breaths to recover, rather than push on. At firs this was easy, but then my tendency to end-gain kicked in, so I had to breathe through that also. I even gave myself the recovery breaths when I played the section well, just to keep my breathing free and my approach balanced.
I'll have to work with this a bit more to see if it becomes permanent, but my sense is that it will.
Photo by Adam Baker