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When Work Doesn’t Work!

Cultivating our sense of play!

Irene standing in flow!

We strive to develop our musical skills.

We become disenchanted with practicing when things don’t go as we want them to. 

When things don’t progress quickly, we get bored and frustrated.

We feel bad about ourselves when we hear someone else that we perceive as better than us. 

We say:

“I’ve got to practice more”

“I’ve got to work harder” 

“I’m not good enough”

“I’ll never be good enough”

“Is it worth it to stay in music?”

We took the play out of playing music 

We can change that.

We are all trying to find a work-life balance.

Let’s do the same in our music! 

Improvisation is all about play. It’s about dropping expectations and dropping into a state of flow, or what some call “into the zone”. This is a place where time does exist, where problems and concerns disappear. It’s an amazing and incredibly healthy place to go to.

For those of us less comfortable jumping in, know that this is a process that takes time. Go at your pace. 

A David Darling quote that says "Yessss"

In creative play, imagination is the wellspring from where our expression flows. Imagination does not run on a schedule, it doesn't respond on command, and it doesn’t like to be judged. Imagination is the soul of our inner child. When we allow it, it flourishes and surprises us! 

In our musical practice, we can get really bogged down and stuck. Engaging in free improvisation creates what I perceive as a work-life balance in music. It allows you to let go, to be a master of what you can do, and to push your edges. It also allows you to just have fun.  

Irene Feher playing drums with other Music for People friends.
Possible After-Effects of Group Improv! Following an improv jam with dear MfP friends in Princeton - March 2023

This goes for all musicians, regardless of their level of experience. If you can let yourself drop into a world of wonder and explore your sound with curiosity, you may discover things you never thought possible. That is because imagination is boundless. 

Improvised music is born in the moment, it reflects back to us what is going on inside, which is often a whole lot of inner brain chatter. I think it’s kind of scary because we are not used to engaging in play.  

I have come to love the experience of improvising with different musicians because it challenges my listening and intuition. It’s not about how much or how good I can play, it’s about how present I am in my playing. 

Every improvisation session I attend or facilitate is a new adventure. It’s as exciting as traveling to a new place. I feel transformed.

A steady practice of improvisation brings me back to why I chose to play music in the first place: because I love it. We all know that love can be challenging, ecstatic, confusing, magical and sometimes painful, but it makes us thrive when we let it. 

Live and love your music  

Try this: sing and/or play over a drone - here is a link:

Start to slowly slide your voice up and down over the drone, or play slowly. Take your time, less is more. As you slowly slide, stop on a few notes and really enjoy them! 

Try this: dance around to a song you love - notice how you feel.


Try this: while you are taking a walk make a sound with your voice as each foot touches the ground in step! You will quickly find yourself wanting to make other sounds in between those steps. Here was a walk I recorded a few years ago during the pandemic!


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