Judging Yourself Too Harshly

Recently I sat down to attempt to record a new bass playing video for the teaching page. I had high expectations about what I wanted to achieve but when I listened back, nothing sounded good enough. I couldn’t get anything I was happy with. I then felt dejected and uncertain about what it is that I do and started to criticise myself harshly for not being good enough. I later realised there was a process here that I should be aware of in the future:

– I felt a strong desire to create music

– I dived in without any preparation, falling back on past experiences hoping that would be enough to create something interesting

– I hadn’t warmed up or done any practise prior to trying to create something new and fresh

– I kept recording takes trying to find something interesting, but was never satisfied with the results

– A period of harsh, negative, self-criticism followed which caused me to want to stop playing temporarily

– I took some time away from playing before coming back to to things later in the day

– Listening with fresh ears enabled me to hear the positive aspects of my playing, almost as if listening to it for the first time (because of course I’d forgotten what those improvisations sounded like earlier in the day)

– I was then able to judge myself less harshly, and weigh the positive aspects of the recording against the negative (I had a small body of recorded ideas with which to make notes and make decisions about what I liked and didn’t like in my playing)

I realised that by changing a few of these steps and applying a little thought, my experience of sitting to record could be quite different. the process should be more like this:

– Before sitting down to create, I should think about what I am trying to achieve

– I should spend some time warming up with some general playing or playing in a similar manner to the ideas I hope to record. During this time I might come up with new ideas which I can record later on

– I should get into the mindset of knowing I have a lot of experience as a player and that any failed attempts to hit the mark immediately in a private recording session doesn’t take away from that fact

– It’s important to take your time and allow ideas to be developed over time. Who said ALL the ideas have to come IMMEDIATELY. The best ideas might come from mistakes being made, and that is perfectly acceptable

– It’s also useful to consider the act of creating as a way of practising… The more you create, the better you get at doing it and therefore the more immediate (and stronger) the ideas may become, eventually

– If you consider everything you do in your private space as practise, then it’s simply a matter of recording your practise sessions. over time, these sessions will become more consistent, stronger, more musical, more interesting and will look and sound less like practise sessions.

– If I feel the darkness creeping to my thinking, I should take a break, do something unmusical for a while, go for a walk, watch a film, do anything to get my mind thinking positively again.

These are just a few thoughts that came to mind when sharing a little with other musicians about how hard we can be on ourselves when we try and do the creative thing. A huge percentage of musicians and artists suffer from excessively harsh self-criticism and perfectionism. I believe it’s how we manage it that’s important. It’s just another thing to practise.

I hope you find this helpful.


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