When I feel truly connected to the music I play, my internal experience is a combination of three elements - an intellectual process, a physical process and an emotional response of healthy joy. Granted, the physical process is not internal, but all three elements influence each other, so I’ll describe my experience of that interplay the best I can without turning this into an entire book.
You often hear people say, “You need to get out of your own way.” I agree, but not in the way most people understand that concept.
It doesn’t mean that your mind goes blank and your “ego” disappears and you become a “vessel” taken over by some mystical power that’s not you.
The object of studying and practicing for years to achieve fluid technique and minimal blockage between your ideas and their physical execution, is so that you can make music as unhindered as possible by intellectual and technical limitations, so your music flows as freely as possible from what you hear in your head to what comes out through your voice or your horn or whatever you use to make music.
The more you know and understand about every facet of music, the more intellectual resources you will have to draw on. The better your physical technique, the more fluidly and beautifully you will be able to express those abundant ideas. So the combination of intellectual study and physical practice allows you to “get out of your own way” by giving you a flowing wealth of ideas and the facility to execute them. And when those two elements come together, you feel a natural, pure joy, as all three elements feed and reinforce each other in a spontaneous outpouring that lifts you and everyone else.
The result of all that is something else that I think many people are confused about - pride. While we’ve heard it blasted for centuries as a sin, Aristotle called it the crown of all virtues, because you EARN it by first practicing other virtues. The person who struts and boasts loudly does not have an ego that’s too big. Their ego is too small and needs to be stroked to compensate. A person who has done the work and knows their own value maintains a quiet confidence and is more naturally humble, because their self-esteem and their ego is calm and solid. Don’t insult such a person by telling them to “leave their ego at the door.” They have worked for and earned their solid, healthy, quiet ego, and that work is what makes them the person they are and the musician they are.