How the classical musician can utilize this powerful tool from performance psychology
We’ve all heard about visualizing before, right? How powerful it is to sit and imagine the audition: our pre-game ritual, the warm up room, walking down the carpet to the middle of stage, playing every excerpt exactly as we have practiced…
But, am I the only musician who found that kind of work challenging? Maybe it is because I think in words, not images. Or because I didn’t have the discipline to sit and imagine through every part of the audition day. Or I just wanted to get on with it and practice already.
However, the science behind visualization is quite persuasive and, as I’ve leaned into a visualization practice for myself, the results are darn exciting.
When we practice visualization, we are tapping into our subconscious mind. Our subconscious functions very differently than our conscious mind and becomes an incredible resource for us as we work to achieve our goals.
While our conscious mind is logical, thinking, concrete and verbal our subconscious mind is the exact opposite. The subconscious does not rely on the outside world for it’s “knowing” and so it can’t differentiate between what is real and what is imagined. It is absolutely literal and only exists in the present. Our subconscious uses feelings and images to communicate and then works to to more readily perceive and recognize what we need to achieve the beliefs held there.
When we visualize an event or a goal, our subconscious believes that it already our reality and does everything it can to support that vision.
The Practice of Visualization
Every Day. Just like with journaling, mantras, affirmations and gratitude, visualization is practice. Creating a small space of time every day - 5 minutes is plenty! - to sit quietly and dream is key. Perhaps after your morning meditation or prayer time, after your morning pages, or right before you go to sleep in the evening? Creating a pocket of time adjacent to an established practice will help visualization become easily integrated into your routine.
Connect to your emotions. Because our subconscious communicates through images AND feelings, it is important that we stir up all the positive feelings we can before we begin. Whether your practice today is focused on an audition, a recital, having a college professorship or touring around the world with your chamber ensemble, tapping into your feelings about achieving the goal will greatly enhance the power of your visualization. The excitement of performing to the best of your abilities; the power of standing in your authenticity and connecting with your audience; the joy of unlocking your students and seeing their faces light up with ah-ha moments; the adventure of traveling around the world and engaging with other cultures as you are united through classical music. What is it for you? What lights you up about your goal? Sit in that space and get yourself worked into a heightened emotional state!
Set the scene. Close your eyes and enter into a time in the future. Fill it with as many details as you can: your feelings, your clothes, the heat from the spotlights, the excited energy pulsing through your veins, the sound of the audience shuffling and chatting, your music, the feel of your instrument in your hands, the stage you’re performing on, your colleagues. Go DEEP. Take the same care with creating your visualization that an author takes when they describe the landscape in a novel. The more detailed you are with your picture, the more vibrant it becomes to your subconscious.
Play out the story line. As best as you can (and this part gets easier with practice!) pretend like you are sitting in a movie theater watching yourself do the thing. Imagine through each phrase, each breath, each moment of joy and transcendence. Imagine nailing those hard passages and singing through the lyrical ones. Imagine what each section feels like to play when you are in your highest state of flow. As the audience member, you are riveted with your eyes never leaving the screen until the last notes sound in the hall.
Repeat! But this time, as the movie is playing a door opens in the screen. You rise from your seat and walk through the door; you are now not watching yourself, you are inside yourself. Looking at the audience, the music, the orchestra, and you are now visualizing your personal experience. And it is magical. You feel aligned with who you were created to be and an overwhelming sense of joy and resonance. There is no fear, just purpose and right-ness in what you are doing. You are exactly where you need to be doing exactly what you want to be doing.
Now I’ve gotten myself worked up into a state of heightened emotion and need to direct that into my own personal visualization! This work is SO FUN!
Taking the time to dream, to release inhibitions and fear, to go ALL IN on our hearts’ deepest desires? That is seriously powerful stuff.
Next Steps and Additional Resources
Here at The Musician's Mindset we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.
First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!
Join the waiting list for my FREE mini-course, How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve and Calm the Heck Down.
Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.