May 31, 2020
Why is that in some performances, we're totally focused, and the critic in our head leaves us alone, and on other days, it's a total nightmare? Research suggests that it might have a little something to do with what we think about in the moments leading up to the performance, and that we might be able to manage our nerves a little better if we engage in the right sort of mental script backstage.
May 24, 2020
We all naturally react to failure a little differently, but ever wonder what's different about those folks who seem to bounce back more effortlessly from repeated failure? This study provides some pretty fascinating insights, as the researchers explore the differences between what more and less persistent kids say to themselves when they experience failure.
May 17, 2020
We've all been told that it's important to go into auditions or performances with positive expectations - but that's often easier said than done. If you've ever gotten frustrated with positive visualization or affirmations, there's another strategy you could try - that might not elicit quite so much pushback from your inner critic.
May 10, 2020
We have all been told that bringing our "A" game in the practice room and on stage requires a certain amount of physical rest and recovery. But I don't know that we as acutely aware of the importance of psychological rest and recovery as well. Recent research suggests that learning to "switch off" might be an important key to maintaining a consistently high level of practice and performance as well.
May 3, 2020
April 26, 2020
A few months ago, percussionist Rob Knopper and I had a chance to sit down and chat with three musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, to see what sorts of similarities and differences there might be in different musicians' approaches to audition preparation. In Episode 3 of this mini-series, oboist Sarah Lewis shares insights on how she stays in a good headspace backstage, what her ideal day-of-audition routine looks like, and what she prioritized in the final week leading up to audition day.
April 22, 2020
A few months ago, percussionist Rob Knopper and I had a chance to sit down and chat with three musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, to see what sorts of similarities and differences there might be in different musicians' approaches to audition preparation. In Episode 2 of this mini-series, flutist Amanda Blaikie shares insights on how she stays in a good headspace backstage, what her ideal day-of-audition routine looks like, and what she prioritized in the final week leading up to audition day.
April 19, 2020
A few months ago, percussionist Rob Knopper and I had a chance to sit down and chat with three musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, to see what similarities and differences there might be in different musicians' approaches to audition preparation. In Episode 1 of this mini-series, violist Caroline Coade shares her insights on how she stays in a good headspace backstage, what her ideal day-of-audition routine looks like, and what she prioritized in the final week leading up to audition day.
April 12, 2020
Athletes, coaches, and sport psychologists often recommend visualizing yourself having a successful performance in the future. But sometimes it can be difficult to get your brain to imagine or buy into future success in that way... So if future-oriented visualization isn't happening for you, is there any performance benefit to visualizing successful performances in your past?
April 5, 2020
Have you ever had a memory slip in performance or worried about having one on stage? University of Arizona viola professor and brain enthusiast (she majored in neuroscience in college) Molly Gebrian shares some insights on the science of memory, and describes simple, straightforward, musician-friendly strategies that you can use to make sure that future performances are a more positive (and less anxiety-inducing) experience!
March 29, 2020
Flutist-turned-yoga educator Nicole Newman shares insights on how yoga practice can not only have physical benefits that transfer to more effective performance, but also mental benefits in terms of enhancing concentration and focus. For the 45-min video demonstration on specific stretches and exercises recommended for musicians, go to:
March 22, 2020
Having to go from live in-person lessons, to teaching through a laptop screen overnight can be a stressful experience. In this episode, piano teacher, educator, and podcaster Tim Topham will share some simple, and immediately actionable strategies and techniques that will help you feel more comfortable and increase your confidence in your ability to be effective when teaching online.
March 15, 2020
It's well known that sleep is a key ingredient in optimal learning. But a recent study takes things a step further and suggests that we can selectively optimize the learning of certain information while we sleep - with "odor cues." Wait...what?!
March 8, 2020
Harpist Lynne Aspnes shares insights on the role of singing in music-making, how to make breathing a more organic part of your playing, and the value of having diverse musical influences.
March 1, 2020
It's often said that we are capable of more than we realize - but is there any research evidence suggesting that we consistently underestimate our abilities?
February 23, 2020
You've probably heard that saying "don't miss" to yourself makes you more likely to mess up. But is this actually true? Or is it just a myth?
February 16, 2020
Are we actually as good at detecting errors and imperfections in our playing as we think? We definitely are on stage - but research suggests we might be missing things in the practice room. Here are a few ways to make sure that doesn't happen.
February 9, 2020
Recovering from a poor start to your performance, or bouncing back from a botched excerpt in an audition can be a real challenge - though very much doable. But what separates those who can get back on track, from those that struggle and get sucked into the downward spiral of doom? Research suggests that it might have something to do with the type of perfectionist you are.
February 2, 2020
Ever feel like you've reached a wall, and can't get your body to do what it needs to do to produce what you hear in your head? Violinist Jennifer Johnson explains how a better understanding of one's body through Body Mapping can help musicians not only avoid pain and injury, but play with more freedom and ease as well.
January 26, 2020
Athletes have been using videotape analysis to enhance learning and performance for years. But is it really worth the investment of time necessary? Does it lead to meaningful benefits above and beyond practice without video?
January 19, 2020
Athletes have been using videotape analysis to enhance learning and performance for years. But is it really worth the investment of time necessary? What does the research say?
January 12, 2020
Research has found that doing mental practice while watching video could be more effective than imagery alone. But if this sort of thing hasn't worked for you, a recent study has identified a reason for why that could be...
January 5, 2020
Met Opera oboist Nathan Hughes shares insights on how he prepares, so that he can play more confidently on stage, under pressure. Not just in terms of practicing the music, but managing the mental game and the uncertainty of reeds as well.
December 22, 2019
Research suggests that "structured practice" could lead to much more improvement in the same amount of practice time as "free practice" - but how exactly are the two different?
December 15, 2019
Whether it's an intimidating conductor or the fear of falling short of expectations in a lesson, there are many moments in our music studies where we might experience anxiety, fear, shame, or other negative emotions. Does that just come with the territory and make us stronger, or do such emotions impair our ability to learn?
December 7, 2019
Doing impressions of famous musicians is a fun game to play with friends when you're in the mood to procrastinate - but could this actually be a useful practice exercise? And have some potentially meaningful musical benefits as well?
December 1, 2019
Horn player Erik Ralske (Met Opera) provides insights on how to get into "the zone," and the paradoxical way in which giving yourself permission to miss notes could lead to more accurate playing.
November 24, 2019
It's often said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. But is this actually true?
November 17, 2019
Nowadays, camera phones are everywhere. And we seem to photograph everything. But what effect does this have on our enjoyment of these experiences?
November 10, 2019
One of my teachers once said that if you sound good in the practice room, you're probably not practicing. Indeed, research suggests that there is actually a lot of truth to this. So why do we naturally tend to gravitate towards less-effective practice strategies?
November 3, 2019
Ever feel creatively stuck, unsatisfied, or inhibited somehow - but can't quite figure out how to get out of your rut? Cellist Mike Block describes some of the experiences that helped him to discover his unique musical identity, and what he continues to do today - both in and out of the practice room - that helps him continue to make his way down this path.
October 27, 2019
The idea of "performance practice," and preparing for the unique demands of performances makes a lot of intuitive sense - but are there times when this is actually not the most useful way to practice?
October 20, 2019
Both giving and receiving feedback can be tricky (and icky). And if you've found feedback you've received to be kind of vague or otherwise unhelpful, research suggests that a tiny change to the language you use when requesting feedback can elicit much more helpful and useful comments.
October 13, 2019
Deliberate or "deep" practice is widely acknowledged to be a critical factor in cultivating talent and ability. But at what age is this something that can be learned? Is this something that middle-school-aged students can learn to do, and sustain as a habit?
October 6, 2019
Ever freak out about what exactly you're going to do when you finish school, and how you're going to get there? Or maybe you're on the other side of school, but struggling a bit to find your unique voice and cut through the noise? Career development guru Angela Beeching shares tips and insights on how to make the most of the resources around you, and craft a career that's more fully "you."
September 29, 2019
Many athletes and musicians engage in quirky rituals before each show. Do these really work? And if so, why?
September 22, 2019
Staying in a good headspace when you have a lot of time to kill before a concert or audition can be a real challenge. But research suggests that listening to a particular kind of music could help.
September 15, 2019
Is it more productive to front-load easy problems or to work on difficult ones? Well, research suggests that working on easy problems can be deceptively productive (and satisfying!) in the short term, but less productive in the long-term.
September 8, 2019
There's a legitimate reason (the "curse of expertise") why it can sometimes be difficult for experts to teach less experienced players how to learn skills that the expert has long ago encoded into their "muscle memory." But research suggests there may be a way to get around this and deliver more useful advice to students who are struggling to learn a new skill.
September 1, 2019
High chinrest? Low chinrest? Centered? Shoulder rest? Shoulder pad/sponge? Or no shoulder rest at all? Finding the right setup can feel like a bewildering process of blind trial and error. But as Claire Stefani explains in this month's conversation, there are fundamental biomechanics principles involved that can guide your search for the optimal setup.
August 25, 2019
Research suggests that positive "trigger words" can help you get into character more effectively, and facilitate more expressive performances.
August 18, 2019
Need to get a new piece learned faster? Here's a study which suggests we might be able to give ourselves a head start by gesturing while watching a video (like air guitar).
August 11, 2019
I once read a claim that 90% of the things we worry about never come true. But is this true? Or is it one of those made-up stats like how 73.6% of all statistics are made up?
August 4, 2019
Boston Symphony Principal Cello Blaise Déjardin shares insights on how he practices for consistently beautiful performances, and what he did to get into a good headspace on the day of his audition.
July 28, 2019
Emerging research suggests that our "stress mindset" influences our physical, mental, and emotional response to stress - and whether it has a positive or negative effect.
July 21, 2019
Have you ever wished there were a way to make performance days feel more like normal days and not have to deal with the butterflies? Well, research suggests that you may want to rethink this particular wish!
July 14, 2019
Turns out mental imagery has a much bigger effect on learning and performance if you are good at imagery. So what are your options if imagery is something that you struggle with?
July 7, 2019
Hear LA Phil Principal Trumpet Tom Hooten describe the uncommon mindset and approach to learning that has helped him become the player he is today.
June 30, 2019
Are you a "night owl" that struggles with sluggishness in morning rehearsals or practice sessions? A recent study suggests that you can actually become more of a morning person and be more effective by making a few adjustments to your daily routine.
June 23, 2019
Have you ever heard of a coffee nap? It's exactly what it sounds like - but is there any research supporting such a thing? Actually, yes! A few studies have looked at whether a coffee nap is better than either one alone.
June 16, 2019
Setbacks are inevitable, and there may not be much we can do to prevent them - but we do have control over how we respond. A recent study illustrates how formerly excessively self-critical athletes have adopted a more self-compassionate mindset in how they approach practice and competition.
June 9, 2019
Ever get paralyzed and indecisive when faced with a choice between two things that are either similar, or have competing pros and cons? Research suggests that a "random" decision aid can help accelerate the decision-making process at times like these.
June 2, 2019
Cellist and Feldenkrais practitioner Uri Vardi explains what Feldenkrais is (and isn't) and shares some examples of how this body awareness modality can help musicians play more efficiently and effectively.
May 26, 2019
A 2017 study found that "self-monitoring" was a significant predictor of whether athletes were competing at an elite, less-elite, or recreational level. So what is self-monitoring exactly, and how does it affect learning?
May 19, 2019
Research suggests that not all practice strategies are equally effective. So between blocked, random, and win-shift/lose-stay practice, which one is best? And just what do these strategies look like anyway?
May 12, 2019
A recent study suggests that there is a simple self-talk hack that could make it even more effective in enhancing performance.
May 5, 2019
Renowned pianist Menahem Pressler speaks about the importance of finding your own voice, and shares many profound insights about the pursuit of a career in music, and what he has found most rewarding about his own journey.
April 28, 2019
We often hear that positive thinking, and envisioning the future we want is an important step in getting there - but research suggests that the best performers include another key ingredient that is an essential part of the equation.
April 21, 2019
Struggling to nail a tricky shift or hit a difficult high note? Believe it or not, research suggests that instead of trying to do everything right, it might be worth trying to do everything wrong first.
April 14, 2019
Is banning phones and laptops in class a good idea - or totally unnecessary? A new study provides answers, but it's a little more nuanced than you might think.
April 7, 2019
Cellist-turned-entrepreneur Margo Drakos shares some of the key strategies that have been instrumental to her success both in music (Oregon, San Diego, Seattle, Pittsburgh symphonies & American String Quartet) and in the business world (InstantEncore, ArtistYear).
March 31, 2019
A study suggests that we can learn more effectively and build more confidence by learning more about the wrong ways to perform a skill, instead of only learning the correct way to execute a skill.
March 24, 2019
Rivalries are often thought of as being really competitive, and sometimes unhealthy, but are there situations in which they could be a good thing?
March 17, 2019
When you have too much time to wait backstage, it can be easy for your thoughts and emotions to spiral out to the bad place. Learn the specific strategies that athletes use to regulate their emotions and keep their cool.
March 10, 2019
Ever find yourself stuck in a performance "slump"? Where you struggle through a string of subpar auditions/performances, and can't figure out how to get back on track? Here are 8 strategies that can help right the ship.
March 3, 2019
Have you ever felt that the music was "stuck"? Or wondered why your metronome practice wasn't working? Learn how to get unstuck and cultivate a stronger sense of rhythm in this chat with violinist Catherine Cho.
February 24, 2019
Feeling a little demoralized after a sub-par performance? Here's a research-based post-performance reflection process developed at Florida State University to help you bounce back better, faster, and stronger.
February 17, 2019
It's common to vary one's speed/tempo when you're doing physical practice. But is there any benefit in doing this when engaged in mental practice?
February 10, 2019
Research suggests that a new mental adjustment and shift in how we view the stakes in stressful performance situations could help us avoid choking under pressure.
February 3, 2019
Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim shares insights on his most effective practice techniques, biggest failures (and successes), and more.
January 27, 2019
Are people who have pictures of family and friends in their case on to something? A study suggets that simply imagining our partner can help us reduce stress as much as having them physically present.
January 20, 2019
Is getting into "the zone" something that just happens randomly? Or do we have more control over this than we realize? New research suggests that we actually do indeed.
January 13, 2019
Pre-performance routines often consist of a number of different elements. But might simply squeezing a ball in your left hand a few times be just as effective?
January 6, 2019
What is Alexander Technique, really? Will it help our playing? If so, in what way? How do we know if we need it? Learn more in this chat with Juilliard's Alexander Technique teacher Lori Schiff.
December 30, 2018
How much wiggle room do we have when it comes to intonation? Do pitch issues affect audience (and other musicians') opinions of the quality of a performance as much as we think they do?
December 23, 2018
It's often said that we should focus on "the music" when performing instead of the notes and technique per se. But does this come at a cost to technical accuracy?
December 16, 2018
Ever have a teacher tell you to imagine performing to the very last row in a hall? Research suggests that this might be better advice than we realize.
December 9, 2018
Ever have difficulty shutting off your brain and getting to sleep? A recent study found that this 5-min writing exercise could help.
December 2, 2018
Cleveland Orchestra principal cellist Mark Kosower talks about how he approaches learning music, and describes what exactly he is thinking about when he's having his best performances.
November 25, 2018
Sometimes we have to play music that we don't necessarily love. So is there anything we can do to cultivate some more enthusiasm about the piece anyway?
November 18, 2018
When you engage in mental practice, how aware are you of tempo? Might you be rushing or dragging? Here's some research on how that could have more of an effect on your performance than you might think.
November 11, 2018
Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a string player like a shaking bow arm. Of course, worrying about shaking is a surefire way to experience the shakes. So what can you do to keep your mind from going to the bad place?
November 4, 2018
Have you ever wondered (or worried) if you were talented enough? Met principal timpanist Jason Haaheim explains why this is the wrong question to be asking ourselves - and what we should be asking instead.
October 28, 2018
Ever wish there was a way to fight jet lag and not be such a zombie when you travel across multiple time zones? Here are 9 tips from two Stanford orthopedic surgeons' review of the literature.
October 21, 2018
Have you ever practiced or studied in secret, afraid to let on how long it takes for you to learn something? Good news - other people are probably working harder than you think.
October 14, 2018
Ever get frustrated by how difficult it can be to follow through on big plans? Here are two strategies that research suggests can help you get over the hump.
October 7, 2018
In this week's conversation, Boston Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga shares some of the key habits and characteristics that seem to be essential in becoming a top performer.
September 30, 2018
It wouldn't seem that improvisation would have a place in classical music performance - but could this be one of the keys to a better performance experience - for both performer and audience?
September 23, 2018
Research suggests that exercising after learning a new skill can help enhance the learning of that skill. So maybe the best time for musicians to work out is after a practice session?
September 16, 2018
Is there something inherently different about classical music that makes classical musicians more anxious on stage? And if so, what could that possibly be?
September 9, 2018
Ever wonder what exact strategies experienced musicians use to come up with their own unique interpretation of a piece? Research suggests that these 8 strategies might be a good place to start.
September 2, 2018
Ever have one of those days where you question if it's possible to balance practicing, performing, and having a life? In this week's chat, LA Phil violinists (and husband/wife) Nathan Cole and Akiko Tarumoto share their thoughts on practicing and auditioning after kids, what they've learned from each other, and more.
August 26, 2018
Research suggests that a different way of doing mental practice - "dynamic imagery" - could actually lead to better performance results than the regular 'ol way.
August 19, 2018
Apparently we've all been sitting incorrectly our whole lives - and paying a price for it not just in terms of comfort, but cognitive performance too.
August 12, 2018
Having difficulty concentrating in the practice room? Sounds simple, but research suggests that taking a drink of water could help increase concentration and help you problem-solve more effectively.
August 5, 2018
Playing a musical instrument can be physically awkward at times - but it shouldn't feel quite as uncomfortable as it often does. In this week's conversation, violist Carol Rodland (Juilliard, Perlman Music Program) shares her thoughts on how we can all learn to play with more ease and effortlessness.
July 29, 2018
Some things are urgent (a gig today), while other things are important (a big audition in 2 months). How can we make the best use of our practice time so that we are at our best for the truly important moments?
July 22, 2018
We've all heard of "home-court advantage." But research suggests that there are times when performing in front of a supportive audience can put us at a disadvantage too.
July 15, 2018
It's normal to feel pressure in high-stakes auditions and performances, but too much can lead to a meltdown. Is there any way to relieve some of that pressure while still caring deeply about doing our best?
July 8, 2018
What do great performers think about while performing? Technique? Sound? Images? In this week's conversation, former Met principal horn player Julie Landsman shares insights on what she did to stay focused on stage, and how she was able to develop trust in her abilities under pressure.
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