The other day, I took off my heart rate monitor after my run, uploaded the data from my Garmin, and reviewed the data on graphs and charts. The graph showed progress in how my speed/mile was increasing while my heart rate was decreasing. I then would measure out my post-run smoothie ingredients (a 3 to 1 carbohydrate to protein ratio along with enough dark leafy greens to make my young boys lavish me with looks of revulsion) to make sure my recovery was on track.
Later that day, I started my practice routine as usual with a very slow, controlled warm-up of some slurs with the metronome set to 52, going from single finger pairs and doubling, tripling, and eventually quadrupling the tempo. Then onto alternation exercises, all tied to divisions and subdivisions with a metronome clicking away. Then a few harder passages played carefully, all tied to the metronome in some form, and then a few very slow run-throughs of perpetual motion movements from larger works for endurance (preludes, etudes, etc…). After all of this, I usually have a bit of time to play through a few pieces, work on trouble spots, and test where they are before I pull myself together for teaching.
Between the persistent desire to become a better guitarist (and healthy endurance runner), my day and activities seem to be dominated by times, beats, numbers, portions, patterns, paces, pulse, measures, measurements. Data.
I’ve often reflected on this and know that when we quantify, we measure, and with the data can take action and make goals. But I also know that a piece of music needs to breathe, to wax and wane. Metronomes and heart rate monitors and scales (for weight) and scales (for music) are useful tools but creating music or running on trails should also feel organic, more intuitive, more human.
So, I’m challenging myself this week to lose the numbers, lose the measurements, and rely more intuitively on my heart and my senses than let the science lab I’ve constructed around my activities provide the usual feedback.