5 easy ways to add mindset work into your daily practice routine
Creating a new mindset practice can seem a bit overwhelming.
Believe me, I get it.
While work on our instruments is tangible - scales, intonation, dynamics - mindset work feels vague and amorphous. We have the best of intentions to create new mindset habits, but they easily fall by the wayside in favor of more concrete practices on our instruments.
I have found that the best way to establish a new habit or practice is to link it to something I already do regularly.
With my morning cup of coffee, I can create the habit of taking my vitamins.
After my daily shower, I can create the habit of applying lotion.
Before I go to sleep, I can create the habit of writing down 3 things I’m grateful for.
You get the picture. You take something that works, that is baked into your daily routine, and add something that brings value to your life.
As musicians, we have several entry points in our daily practice routines that we can add simple mindset exercises that have profound impacts when executed consistently over time.
5 Easy Ways to Add Mindset Work into Your Daily Practice Sessions.
1. Before you begin every practice session, BREATHE. The simple act of taking 30 seconds to 2 minutes to breathe deeply will impact you in several ways.
It will calm your nervous system. Chances are you aren’t always in the most peaceful emotional space when you begin to practice. Breathing will settle you down and bring you back into a state of balance.
It will focus you. Taking a couple of minutes to breathe allows you to ground yourself before practicing. You can create an intention, set a goal, or simply settle into the focused work you are about to do.
It will train you to use breath during times of stress. When we engage in a breathing practice, we are teaching our bodies how to calm down quickly and they get really good at it! You are creating neural pathways that, over time, your brain will learn to use when you need a sense of calm.
2. During tone work, USE AFFIRMATIONS. Rather than mindlessly playing long tones, I suggest you speak affirmations to yourself. You will be more engaged with the work you are doing and you will be bolstering your confidence. Try something like this:
I am singing through my instrument.
My sound is rich, full, and resonant.
My vibrato is relaxed and open.
I have control and freedom in my sound production.
The more you practice using affirmations, the more natural they will become. How delightful that, after time, every time you pick your instrument up you feel a sense of calm confidence!
3. When working on a difficult technical passage, USE POSITIVE SELF TALK. When you become aware of the narrative running through your brain as you practice, you may find it to be quite abrasive. “Yup, I screwed that up again!” or “I am NEVER going to be able to play this at tempo!” There is a way to hold yourself to a high standard AND be kind and encouraging.
Wow, I am really stumbling over this passage. I feel so frustrated! But, let me slow the tempo down and keep working. I know the technique will come.
My high register diminuendos always go flat. It feels like they’ll never improve. I think I’ll change my approach and practice starting ppp and then return to my diminuendo practice.
I am struggling with the phrasing in this part of my sonata. I feel really stuck. After I practice, I’ll listen to a few recordings to get my creative juices going. In the meantime, I’ll sing through my part and see what that unlocks.
Using positive self-talk doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings or pretending that everything is sunshine and rainbows. You notice the problem without judgement. You give voice to your feelings. You come up with a solution.
4. Keep a practice log. Sometimes we don’t see our improvement because it is so incremental. If there is an aspect of your playing or a piece you find yourself down about, try tracking your progress for a few weeks. It could be:
Timing how long it takes you to get your thirds in tune with a drone;
Tracking metronome speeds on a piece or scales;
Recording your cold run-through of an excerpt.
You’ll build confidence as you realize you are indeed improving! It’s just slow, sometimes. That’s part of the job when you're operating on such a high level.
5. Read inspiring quotes when you practice scales. We all have quotes that light a fire in our bellies. Whether they encourage us to get back up after we fall or they align with our WHY, quotes are a wonderful, easy way to realign our mindsets. When you are practicing something from memory like your scales, look at uplifting quotes!
You’ll find that most of these suggestions are about creating positive information loops in our brains. As humans, we naturally have negativity bias and practices like these help combat our natural inclinations toward being hard on ourselves.
Give yourself an abundant amount of positive inputs. It will support your playing and build your courage so you can keep making this world more beautiful with your music.
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!
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Schedule your call with Katie. It’s free. It’s my pleasure. And it’s the first step to releasing stage fright once and for all.
Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is a certified life coach 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.