For this reason classically trained musicians are often criticized by today’s pop culture as being too “technical.” All of that training can cause them to perform with their head instead of their heart. Each note is musically calculated, but the meaning and emotion behind the music is lost.
In the same respect, untrained musicians can also experience performance issues. Their lack of training can limit the level of skill they can achieve within their playing or singing. A singer may not be able to achieve the notes, runs or intonation that his heart wants to express due to a lack of training. An instrumentalist may hit limits to the speed and dexterity he can achieve, regardless of the amount of time he spends practicing, due to poor technique.
Truly talented musicians master the balance of holding on to their technique and training while letting go of their technical thought process and freely expressing the emotion of the music. This balance comes through the mastery of two stages of training. First, we must truly master the techniques that we are studying. When a technique is truly mastered, it becomes effortless and automatic. Therefore, I believe that the criticism of “technical” musicians is not a result of too much technique, but instead a result of lack of mastery of the technique. If the mastery of the skill requires enough thought to dominate our expression then the skill has not actually been mastered.
The second stage is mastery of emotion. A person can understand the way a particular emotion feels, but have trouble outwardly expressing it. Emotions tend to be wild and uncontrollable. Over and/or under expression can easily occur during a musical performance. This is enhanced by our skewed perspective of our own expression. Musicians (especially singers and wind players) have a much closer perspective to their tone production than the audience. The sound is resonating on, or even in their body, so what they hear can be drastically different from the tone that the listener hears. In addition, movement and visual expression can also feel different from the actual outward appearance.
To master the art of outward expression, a musician must understand what the correct visual and tonal expression feels like (from his perspective). We need to practice this in the same way that we practice musical technique. Performing in front of a mirror or video recording device can help to gain perspective. Repeated performance and observation will eventually yield the desired results. When these results become effortless and automatic we have truly mastered the ability to express emotion. Combining this mastery with the mastery of musical technique will create an amazing musical performance.