Mental Practice

These last few weeks have been really difficult for me. While I have been to many honor bands where I get to play my flute all weekend, I haven’t had the time to just be alone with my flute to practice. Between all the extra rehearsals, homework, and having a foreign exchange student from France living with me right now (I’ll probably talk more about this in a later post), I have not had any time to really practice my flute. This certainly isn’t helping my playing, but it has also affected my mood! I need time to just play by myself! Aside from the fact that this has made me really grumpy lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how I can fix this problem. How can I give myself more time to practice when I have no time at all?

The other day I was searching around on the internet for different ways to improve myself and my practice technique and I came across an article titled Mental Practice for Musicians. With “musician” in the title I obviously had to check it out. This article describes the everyday difficulties of a musician trying to find the time to practice that I often face myself. Often times, once I have finally gotten my homework done, it will be too late to pull out my flute to practice, unless I want my family to kick me out of the house. I also find that even if I have 20 minutes of time to get a little practicing in, it won’t feel worth the time to get everything ready to play. So, because others have these same problems that I do, Dr. Noa Kageyama wrote an article on mental practice.

It may seem crazy, but I find it quite believable that taking a little time each day to mentally practice could benefit your playing. The key to this type of practice, says Dr. Kageyama,  is that “it must be structured just as actual practice, with self-evaluation, problem solving, and correction of mistakes.” Much like actual practicing, you can’t just run mindlessly through a song, paying little attention to detail and mistakes. It’s important to really slow things down mentally, and work out any tricky parts. I’m not a scientist or anything, but I think that the reason why mental practicing can help you is because doing something effectively and vividly in your head can be a lot more difficult than just doing something. So if you can truly imagine yourself playing in your head in the exact way you would actually play, then you have a better understanding of what you’re doing when you actually play! Sounds confusing, but give it a try!

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