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Ten Minutes to a Better Practice Session

Help for the classical musician who is struggling

There are days when you pick up your instrument and things just feel … off. Enthusiasm for your practice is running low, rumination on a mistake you made in rehearsal yesterday is clogging your thoughts, or anxiety about an upcoming performance is making it hard to focus. Just like that, a practice session can go from productive to debilitating and you’re stuck feeling helpless and frustrated.

Oftentimes, we believe that we can think our way out of a low mindset or mood. While sometimes that can be successful, I have found that, more often than not, taking ten minutes to work through an exercise or journal prompt will solve the problem more efficiently and provide a helpful framework for the next time a mindset adjustment needs to be made.

Remember, it is only through thoughtful, intentional mindset work that we can learn to effectively work through performance anxiety.

*This exercise is adapted from Dr. Julie Smith’s book, Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?*

Ten Minutes to a Better Practice Session

Step One

You are going to take the emotional soup you are in the middle of and put words to it. This takes the abstract state of (and this is a technical term) “feeling like crap” and helps you understand the different components of what you’re experiencing. Answer the questions for each category in the corresponding quadrant of the diagram. Here's a FREE PRINTABLE TEMPLATE for your personal use.

  1. Thoughts: What is the narrative in my head? What words or phrases am I repeating to myself? What am I afraid of?

  2. Emotions: What am I feeling? Get descriptive, precise, and accurate.

  3. Physical Sensations: How is my energy, my concentration, my tension? What is my body communicating?

  4. Behavior: What do I notice myself doing? What actions (or lack of actions) am I taking?

This is an example of what it can feel like for a musician.

Step Two

Now you are going to take the same formula and apply it to what you want to be experiencing. Developing a clear vision helps your brain more easily create your desired state.

  1. Thoughts: What are the most generous thoughts I can have about myself? What is my why, my core value for making music?

  2. Emotions: What emotions support a productive practice session?

  3. Physical Sensations: How does my body feel when I am in a state of flow?

  4. Behavior: How do I best structure my time during practice? What activities support my concentration?

I’ve created a FREE PRINTABLE for you to access as support to work through a tough practice session. Print out a few and toss them in your bag or on your stand for use the next time you want to create a positive mindset.

In less than ten minutes you can change your practice session, cultivate a positive mindset, and equip yourself for success.

Blank Practice Session Worksheet
Download PDF • 20KB

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.

  1. First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!

  2. Schedule your FREE 30 Minute Call with Katie. It’s free. It’s my pleasure. And it’s the first step to releasing stage fright once and for all.

Katie Frisco

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.


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