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What do you say inside your head to yourself as you perform?

Psychology for my students #25

What do you say inside your head to yourself as you perform? 

Anything at all?

I'm hoping the answer is: "Nothing". I'm hoping that you don't talk to yourself, but concentrate on conveying the musical message, listening to how it sounds and adjusting your playing in response. And I'm hoping that your focus is on making your playing feelgood, because the better it feels, the better it sounds, and the better it sounds the more deeply it will be resonating both within you, and those around you. 

In psychology there is broad agreement that we have two main modes of operating: 

1. Logical, thinking, analytical and step-by-step, associated with seeing and talking

2. Intuitive, feeling, experiential and holistic, associated with hearing and doing/music-making

Preparationfor performance requires a great deal of number 1 above. You need to understand what you are doing and have prepared thoroughly, mentally, emotionally and physically. Otherwise your performance is likely to fall apart. "It went alright at home" is a familiar cry.

However, enjoyable performances (enjoyable for both performer and audience, that is), need a number 2 approach. 

How much do you enjoy performing? Assuming you enjoy practising towards a performance, and look forward to performing while practising, do you actually enjoy the performance itself? Or does the fearful and critical talk in your head come between you and the music, making you worry about mistakes and wish it was all over?   

Or, perhaps you do enjoy performing, but have found that if the thought: "This is going well!" crosses your mind, you slip off the rails for the next few notes?  

The point is that it is not (normally!) possible to give a deeply satisfying musical performance while also talking to yourself inside your head. So concentrate on hearingand feeling when performing, keeping a clear head, but without talking to yourself!  

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