Musicians’ Foundational Guide to Effective Performance Practice .
Reconnect with your natural musicianship, free expression and ease on stage!
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Advance your Awareness:
Engage in Mindful Practice and Self-Reflection
There are two main areas that are involved in performance. One is naturally ‘what we do’...our psychomotor skills, the way we use our muscles, and the hours we actually spend training those muscles. The other, less obvious perhaps, is the ‘way we are’ in those actions… what we think, feel and experience when practicing and playing: our perception and proprioception skills.
One interior (being) and the other exterior (doing): both must be attended in support of optimal performance.
You could practice how to start a high note pianissimo or a shift of position for hours…but if your self-confidence skill is low, chances are your results will not be consistent nor reliable. Do you know that feeling?… you go on stage and you don’t know how your performance is going to go?
Or, perhaps you practice conscientiously, but your concentration and focus skills are not solid, so that when you go on stage, and suddenly you are hyper-aware of the situation (aka hyper focused), you realise you don’t feel at ease to start playing in this state and your mind starts thinking of all that could go wrong.
To get more consistent results and freedom on stage, the answer is NOT always: “practice more or play more concerts’’… this approach might give temporary improvement, but is not sustainable. Can you imagine a beginner musician wanting to learn a complex technique and you expecting them to get there by ‘just doing it more’?… you wouldn’t dream of it, right? We know there is a logical sequence in which we learn skills and competencies.
This is valid for both hard skills (technical, motor) and soft skills (personal traits, emotional, interpersonal etc…).
This means that alongside the technical or psychomotor skills, you also need to give attention and develop other skills. Different studies agree there are at least 7 main soft skills areas related to peak performance. My experience as a violinist and working with musicians has confirmed this, however each person has unique needs in those areas on their way to peak performance.
You could say that each of those areas has a number of ‘sub-skills’ and the art is to detect which one is the one just right for you in this moment and for the specific situation you like to bring change about.
The good news: once you have worked on ‘self-awareness and self-reflection’ you’ll be quite able to discern what you actually need. (and if you need help, well… you know where to find me ;-)
Given we can only change what we are aware of, the first step in bringing about change is to become truly aware of what actually happens as you enter the practice room, during your practice routine and in relation to particular pieces and passages.
Ready to Explore?
Practice #1: Inventory – Awareness Key Moments
1.Explore at least once a day
… preferably each time you engage in practicing, your current approach to playing and performing. In general, and/or on specific passages, pieces.
Questions to support your exploration:
- What do you think, feel, experience as you decide to enter the practice room, while practicing and in relation to certain pieces or passages?
- How do you engage your mind and body when practicing and performing?
- What do you tell yourself?
- Do you see yourself succeed in achieving the goals you set for yourself?
- Are you aware of your body?
- What kind of emotions or sensations are mostly present?
2.Reflect on your practicing habits
- What is your usual practice routine? Why have you chosen it?
- How do you decide what to practice and which strategy is the most appropriate to achieve the result you seek?
- How do you set goals and how do you know when they are achieved?
3.Record your findings.
- Write down your answers to the prompts in sections 1. and 2. in a dedicated journal as, remember?, you can only improve what you become aware of.
Bonus: it will be pretty cool to be able to look back on your reflection and a neat way to track your improvement.
Go to … 2 Creative Thinking
What’s OK and What’ s NOT OK
It’s ok to use this guide for your own practice and for your own ensemble practice.
It’s NOT ok to use this guide for commercial use. You can’t sell it, share it, sell workshops that you’ll facilitate based on it, or create a website redistributing this content.
If you’re interested in digging deeper with your group, organisation or for your own development, get in touch with me.