With constant email notifications, text message alerts, and infinite scrolling, modern technology has slowly reprogrammed many of our minds to get used to frequent distractions. In the culture of smart phones, the ability to focus for prolonged periods of time has gradually diminished and got worse than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic as many had transferred to remote work. Coming out of the worldwide lock-downs, the culture of remote work continued to thrive, but unfortunately, not without overwhelm and anxieties that the tech culture brings. The amount of great content online has increased dramatically and it makes people want to take advantage and absorb as much of it as possible. But the human brain isn’t a computer. There is a limit to how much we can learn in a given period of time. So what does this have to do with memorizing music?
Affirmations – positive statements about ourselves in first person and in the present tense. But do they really help cope with performance anxiety and resolve negative feelings leading up to a performance?
Have you ever felt like a fool sitting there repeating phrases to yourself like “I am a great musician. I sound amazing. I am very confident about this.”? All in the midst of being a nervous wreck just before getting up on stage or taking an audition. Ever feel like you were forcing this message to your subconscious self and try to trick yourself out of feeling inadequate, intimidated, or like an impostor?
This is a pretty common scenario. Unfortunately, affirmations don’t always work, even with all best intentions. If we feel like we are lying to ourselves with these statements, affirmations may cause us more harm than good.
There is a better way.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about where to begin the discussion on best practices to minimize unnecessary tension in the bow arm. The complexities of bow technique development for good tone production, various articulations, dynamics, and expression can easily lead one to develop bad habits somewhere along the way.
The most common problems with bow arm tension in players of ALL levels are: Continue reading “Unfolding Tension in the Bow Arm & Hand”
If you’re anything like me, the busyness and excitement of holidays (combined with shorter/colder days in the northern hemisphere) can lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. One effective way to manage (besides sitting with the feelings and accepting them for what they are in the moment) is by practicing gratitude.
Try an exercise with me, called Three Great Things: Continue reading “Three Great Things: The Power of Gratitude”
Have you ever been told (or know someone who was told) “It’s too late to learn an instrument at this point in your life” or “You’ve aged out of all music festivals and haven’t landed a big job – it’s too late to progress”? This is part of an old, false belief that’s still making its rounds around the globe. It’s part of a fixed mindset epidemic that’s easier to fall into as we go through life.
Like most classical musicians, I occasionally have some very unwelcome guests in my mind – feelings of doubt, uncertainty, or insecurity. Having some of these feelings are quite normal and in fact, there is a way they can help us grow. However, they become a serious problem if we try to either force them out by faking confidence or dwell on them too long. The longer the negative feelings and thoughts stay, the more they push confidence and reassurance out, leaving us potentially feeling helpless.
This post won’t be about centering or visualization – both essential skills for improving our best performance under pressure. This is a deeper dive that explores what strengthens the roots of true confidence. I’ll briefly summarize 3 concepts as explained by bestselling author, athlete, and coach Steve Magness in his brand new book Do Hard Things. Continue reading “3 Practices to Achieve True Confidence on Stage”
Every spring (not counting 2020) toward the end of the academic year, many freelance musicians get BOMBARDED with gigs after the quieter months of January and February. Even those of us who spend a healthy amount of time practicing during the “off-season” suddenly experience a huge uptick in daily playing hours come spring. Continue reading “Injury-Prevention Exercises for Violinists and Violists”
Have you ever been really anxious to practice but just couldn’t seem to get yourself to pick up your instrument? It happens to the best of us. One of the hardest things about practicing consistently is simply getting started. Unfortunately for many people it doesn’t seem to get easier over the years. In fact, I know many professional musicians who have either completely stopped practicing regularly or had to take extended breaks at some point due to other life obligations. This was especially common during the early days of this pandemic when there were no upcoming concerts or other deadlines. No matter what kind of musician you are – whether you’re a complete beginner, someone who’s not yet used to practicing on a daily basis, or a seasoned professional who is working on regaining that momentum, let’s work on making it just a little easier to get started.
Let’s be realistic – not every big goal will come to fruition; especially not on the first try. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether it’s a good idea to keep going or call it quits and look for the next shiny idea. However, if your goal is nicely aligned with your personal values in life, there’s usually a valid reason to be stubborn and keep going. In every unique growth timeline, there are tipping points along the way – moments that can completely change the course of the journey and decide what happens next based on small actions you’ve taken across a long period of time.