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Mental Practice and Why You Need to Do It

Music is more than just getting the notes right; it's about the soulful connection you share with your instrument. In our class we discover different practice methods to activate different cerebral cortices. Today we will talk about the secret ingredient to mastering the art of violin playing, that often goes overlooked: the power of mental practice. Beyond the strings and bow, this method can dramatically improve your performance, strengthening the bond between playing apparatus (body), muscle, mind, and music. Let me share with you the essence of mental practice in music and how you can weave it into your practice routine.

Mental practice is a powerful technique utilised not only in music but also in various other fields such as sports, martial arts, and psychology. In sports, athletes often engage in mental rehearsal to visualise their performance, enhance focus, and build confidence.

In martial arts, mental practice plays a crucial role in honing skills, improving performance and being ready for the opponent’s attack when the fight begins . Just as in music, visualising techniques and movements can lead to better execution and focus during actual practice or performance.

Overall, mental practice is a versatile tool that transcends disciplines, offering benefits such as improved performance, enhanced focus and reduced anxiety.

Imagine playing a piece perfectly in your head, without even touching your violin (or any other instrument). This is mental practice, a kind of mental gymnastics where you visualise every detail of your performance. It’s like running a simulation where everything from the gentle pressure of your fingers on the strings and the right sound point is perfectly rehearsed and the emotion driving each note is vividly imagined. Each technical element is clearly executed in your mind prior to holding the instrument in hand. Studies suggest that this kind of rehearsal lights up the same areas of the brain as physically playing the instrument, offering a unique way to sharpen your craft without lifting your bow.

Why Mental Rehearsal Matters

  • Builds Muscle Memory Without the Muscle: Just by thinking about it, you can reinforce the pathways in your brain that control your movements, leading to more fluid and confident playing.

  • Sharpens Your Focus: Imagine everything in detail. During this process, you might uncover some blind spots, revealing moments when your practice with the instrument was on autopilot rather than truly focused. This lack of attention can be risky, jeopardising the quality of your performance.

  • Visualising your performance helps pinpoint your attention on the intricacies of the music, enhancing your ability to deliver it flawlessly.

  • Eases Performance Nerves: By mentally preparing for a concert, you can walk onto the stage feeling more collected and ready.

  • Fits Practice Into Busy Schedules: Mental rehearsal can happen anywhere, anytime—no violin needed. It’s an efficient way to keep your practice going, even while in transport (of course just if you are in the passenger seat).

  • Deepens Your Musical Understanding: It encourages an intimate exploration of the piece, enriching your interpretation and connection to the music.

Tips for a Fruitful Mental Practice

  • Find Your Quiet Place: Look for a place where you can be alone with your thoughts without interruptions.

  • Visualise With Precision: Picture yourself playing with exacting detail, from the technicalities to the emotions behind the music.

  • Involve All Your Senses: Try to feel the strings, bow movement (speed, pressure, sound point etc) hear the melody in your mind, and even sense the presence of an audience.

  • Set Clear Intentions: Each mental practice session should have a purpose, whether it’s smoothing out a tricky passage or deepening the expressiveness of a phrase.

DISCLAIMER Please note my dear friends, mental practice cannot replace physical practice! But it definitely can compliment it. Use this secret weapon with caution :) 

Incorporating mental practice into your daily regimen can transform your music-playing. It’s about using your mind’s eye to see beyond the notes, to the very heart of your performance. Next time you reach for your violin, remember, the journey to mastery is as much about envisioning perfection as it is about physically striving for it.

And just for a bit of fun, get a «Mental Practice Companion» pillow for yourself or make a gift for your musician friend with a good sense of humour.

To summarise, add mental practice into your daily routine, and let your musical journey be rich and fulfilling. Let's make music that touches the soul, guided by both our hands and our hearts.

I look forward to hearing the results you will achieve by giving it a go.

Just one more thing! As you are enjoying your «Mental Practice Companion» pillow try your best to not fall asleep :)


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