4Ps and Mindfulness in practice:
Product, Process, Person and Play
This is an approach that blends mindfulness directly with musical practice, based on the rationale that we practice in solitude, use repetition, require deep focus and intent to do something of social and value an beauty. The methods of mindfulness (as well as T’ai Chi, Quigong, mystical Christianity, mystical Islam, Yoga etc…) mirror a number of processes that we use in improvisation and musical performance, especially impulse management and focus towards real-time action. All sounds more grand that it actually is. It is common sense – but elusive!
I have been working on this for many years but have added an explicit mindfulness dimension since 2012. Many folk recommend meditating separately but the inference is that will help by osmosis. Others recommend yoga and yoga-breathing but rarely if ever with the instrument or while actually playing/improvising etc. Educational research appears to suggest that we have to embed actions in order for them to be learnt, so although meditating away from the piano is immensely beneficial (ask the Dalai Lama!), blending with actual actions at the instrument will, in my experience, be even more useful to the specific act of playing.
In short, I work with this proposition:
Play is most likely to occur when musical product, musical processes and the musical (inner) person are balanced (the 4P model). In particular, this blends mindfulness strategies and techniques with activities at the musical instrument, directly, not only before or afterwards but integrated within the activities, similar to a walking meditation.
The 4Ps aims to achieve a holistic/integrated engagement with musical practice and performance through combining elements of musical activity. In the same way that mindful practice (in particular the set-up in meditation practice) differentiates between senses, phenomena and processes, so the 4Ps makes space to apply attention to aspects of improvisational processes – sensations, the thinking, sensing and non-thinking mind.
My experience playing, practicing and discussing music with jazz and classical musicians reinforces my conviction that we share processes with those who practice mindfulness. We are well advised to implement some of their know-how! A word of thanks here also to Hal Crook (Play-Rest techniques) and Hein Van De Geyn who once advised “don’t play until it hurts!”.
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