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Day 1040- Paralysis by Analysis

Recently I had a conversation with a good friend and colleague, and I really wanted to think and clarify my thoughts on the phrase "Paralysis by Analysis". Here you go Bryan!


In this picture, there are two ways to divide the circle in half. First, I think playing can be thought about in the paradigm of 'technical vs. artistic'. Additionally, we can refer to the paradigm of 'mental vs. physical'. These aspects can create four different aspects of performance: Physical-Technical, Physical-Artistic, Mental- Technical, Mental-Artistic. I give a brief description of each category in the photo. By no means should these be considered rigid- these are more fluid and connected than any chart could illustrate.


I believe that the highest level of artistic performance is when a performer can spend all of their energy focusing on “Mental-Artistic” aspects in the moment. This can create a level of spontaneity and ’life’ in performances. After all, it is not our job to merely ‘execute’ a performance, but instead take it further and add life to it- bring something special to it. This often results in 'never the same way twice', which I tend to prefer (though not it's not everyone's preference).


But this can only be achieved when the other three areas are already worked out. “Paralysis by Analysis” is a commonly misunderstood phrase among musicians. Sometimes people use the phrase to refer to any time that someone is working out Physical-Technical, Physical-Artistic, or Mental-Technical issues. Often I hear (incorrectly in my opinion) musicians overuse this phrase any time someone gets into the ‘how’ or ‘what’ in these three aspects– they just don’t want to think too hard, and "Paralysis by Analysis" becomes a rather convenient way to dismiss the necessary and specific work that some individuals may need to do in order to play their best. This will be highly individualized and some over-generalize a 'one size fits all' way of practicing and performing.


I think “Paralysis by Analysis” should be in reference to someone’s performance where instead of being able to focus only on Mental-Artistic aspects, they still have unfinished business in the other three areas that is getting in the way. It does not mean that

these aspects of playing shouldn’t be addressed. These aspects all need to happen in the practice room and they all need to get worked out for optimal performance. Even musicians who think they 'never had to' probably did, they just don't remember (or a smart teacher made it happen by assigning certain things without talking about it!).


Don’t let anyone try to convince you that you can skip these steps, or that these steps mean you are less of a musician. There are no shortcuts, and some people will need to spend more time focusing on different aspects of their playing than others in order to work things out. It doesn't matter. What DOES matter is that you do what you need to do to work everything out and play great.



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