A couple years ago, I crossed paths with a musician whom I had gone to school with, but didn’t get to know at the time.
She said that she remembers practicing in the room next door to me one day, and how she left to go eat dinner, returned an hour or so later, and was impressed to hear that I was still hard at work on the same passage I had been practicing when she left.
At the time, she thought I must be incredibly dedicated and detail-oriented to be working so diligently on a single phrase.
The reality, of course, is that I wasn’t dedicated at all. I was incredibly frustrated. Spinning my wheels. And expending a ton of time and energy for very little gain.
It’s the reason why I had such a negative relationship with practicing for most of my life.
I didn’t understand why things often didn’t improve all that much even if I repeated it 50 times. Or used a metronome. Or practiced slow. Or used different rhythms.
I also didn’t understand why sometimes things would get much better – but then the next day, when I returned to the practice room, all my progress seemed to have disappeared overnight.
And why sometimes, no matter how much I practiced, it felt like things were getting worse, not better.
And why it was that performances were so hit or miss, even if everything sounded great in the practice room, and I felt totally prepared.
Looking back, I can see that the problem wasn’t a time or effort issue. I was just spending waaay too much of my time engaged in practice activities that don’t lead to effective learning.
Fortunately, things did eventually change. When I went to Juilliard for my masters, I took a sport psychology class with Don Greene, where I learned that there was a whole research literature devoted to studies on effective practice, and clear, actionable guidance on what the most effective practicers and learners do differently.
As I began incorporating more of these concepts and strategies into my daily practice, I started to feel differently about practicing. I didn’t mind it so much anymore. It was actually kind of satisfying (?!).
Because for once in my life, I felt like I was actually accomplishing things in the practice room. And I became increasingly confident that these improvements were not the fleeting and temporary improvements I was accustomed to, but lasting, reliable, permanent changes that I could count on. And not just in the practice room, or in my next lesson or studio class, but ultimately, on stage too.
So if you’ve been frustrated with practicing yourself, or feel like practicing is just one long series of slumps and plateaus, and wish you had a better relationship with practicing and performing, I’d love to share a few of the essential research-based strategies, concepts, and principles that can make a world of difference.
Performance Psychology Essentials is a live, online, 4-session workshop series. An interactive crash course where you’ll learn how to develop the key mental skills that enable musicians to feel effective in the practice room, and rise to the occasion and play their best when it counts.
It won’t be just a bunch of abstract theory. We’ll cover a specific set of specific, concrete, mental skills and practice strategies. Things that will not only help you develop your skills to the highest level, but demonstrate those skills as well. Especially when the pressure kicks in.
We’ll meet once a week via Zoom, go through the relevant research on four essential psychological skills, try a range of different exercises and techniques together as a group, and then I’ll show you how to integrate the new skills into your daily practice.
We’ll meet via Zoom every week, for a live, 90-minute session where you’ll learn about and try out the essential skills and strategies described above. I’ll share the theory and research behind the skills, and then we’ll experiment with the skills live, so you’ll feel comfortable integrating the new skills into your daily practice during the week.
There will also be weekly practice and performance challenges (i.e. short homework assignments), so you’ll have some structure, and know exactly what to do every day. These assignments won’t be too time-consuming – I’m aiming for just 5-10 minutes per day – and will help you learn these skills more quickly.
And what if you miss a session, or can’t make it live?
I know it’d be awesome if everyone could be there for each live session, but with time zones, and schedules being what they are, I know that’s just not possible. So all sessions will be recorded and uploaded to your account, and you can catch up later that day (or whenever you get a chance).
Plus, you’ll have access to a private forum area, where you’ll be able to interact with other participants and ask me any questions that might come up. And not just during the course, but for the next 12 months afterwards too!
It’ll look something like this:
So…who is this course for? Is it for conservatory students who are aspiring to a career in music? Or for adult learners seeking to show more of what they are capable of in lessons, or enjoy performing for friends and family more?
Well, I know that the smart, business-savvy thing to do is to create a program that appears to target a very narrow and exclusive audience. And yes, it’s true that different people have different learning goals and needs, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula for peak performance.
However, in working with a wide range of musicians over the last decade or so, from advanced middle schoolers to conservatory students to adult beginners to experienced amateur to professionals who have been playing for decades, it’s been nice to see how much we have in common, regardless of our age, experience, or level of playing. And also, how broadly applicable and useful many of these relatively little-discussed and unintuitive practice and performance strategies can be, whether we’re hoping to be more effective in the practice room, manage nerves, get into the zone, or play more freely on stage.
So whether you’re in conservatory, picking up an instrument as an adult, or coming back to the instrument after some time away, I hope you’ll feel welcomed in joining a cohort of curious and inquisitive learners for this live, online, 4-session crash course on the essential practice strategies and mental skills that I think could make a world of difference in your day-to-day musical life.
If, on the other hand, you are a professional musician/educator, you’ll probably find the Performance Psych Essentials for Educators course to be a better fit, as the focus is not just on learning to use these skills yourself, but on how to teach these skills as well. More details on that version of the course are available here.
If you have any lingering questions about whether this might be the right fit or not, feel free to send me an email and I’ll be happy to chat further about this!
I grew up in a house in the middle of the woods, outside of a small, rural community. It was a quiet and peaceful place to grow up, but there weren’t many other musicians around. And for most of my life, I felt like I was practicing all alone, and missing out on all of the fun my friends were having, as they rode their bikes, played soccer, or came up with crazy new things to do like playing soccer on their bikes.
So summer festivals (and college), felt pretty awesome. Because for once, when I was practicing, I knew my friends were practicing too. Whether they were next door, or down the hall, it was nice to know that I wasn’t missing out on anything. And with everyone just a few steps away, this meant that practice breaks were way more fun too.
All this to say, you can totally go through this course on your own, and get a ton out of it. But if you’ve been feeling a little isolated in your daily practice this last year, and have a friend or practice buddy that you’d like to go through the course with, I think that could add a whole other dimension to this experience as well.
I’d like to make it as easy as possible to add in this social element, so there’s an option below to get a second account for your practice buddy at a much-reduced cost.
The Educator version of this course covers very similar skills and strategies, but the focus is not just on learning and applying these skills in the practice room and on stage, but teaching them as well.
This Learner version of the course is really intended to be a place for students and adult learners to learn these skills and connect with each other. If you are an educator and would like to integrate more performance psychology techniques and principles not just into your own playing, but into your lessons as well, I’d recommend waiting until the next educator session begins. Click here to join the waitlist and get an email when the course re-opens.
The sessions will be recorded and uploaded as soon as Zoom does its thing and I can upload them to my host (usually by the end of the day). So you’ll be able to “play along” with the exercises we do, and submit your homework into the group along with everyone else without too much of a delay.
And part of the reason for my creating the private social network for this training, is to ensure that we can all communicate with each other asynchronously, regardless of whatever time zone we may be based in.
It’s tricky to set a minimum age, as I’ve had students as young as 12 in my pre-college classes, and most have been super engaged, curious, enthusiastic, and independent learners.
So while I’m inclined to recommend that participants be age 18 or above, if you have a younger student that would like to participate, just email me, and we can chat about whether this would be a good fit for them at this time.
The short answer is that there is quite a bit of overlap between this course and Beyond Practicing. The “Essentials” course is intended more for folks who would like a live, guided introduction to mental skills training. With Beyond Practicing being a more comprehensive resource to explore afterwards.
That said, a number of Beyond Practicers have signed up for the Essentials course and really enjoyed the live experience. So if you are already enrolled in Beyond Practicing and remain interested in a live learning experience of some of these skills, email me and we can see if this might still be a good fit for you.
After completing checkout, you’ll receive an email confirming your enrollment. Just reply to that email with the name and email address of your practice buddy, and I’ll be able to use that info to manually create their account, and send them a welcome email with their login credentials.
If you’d like to explore some of the most essential skills and techniques in the course live, with a cohort of curious, thoughtful, supportive, and like-minded educators (and a few mildly irreverent or benevolently sarcastic folks mixed in to make sure we don’t get too serious), that’s also an option!
Starting Thursday, February 3rd, we’ll meet via Zoom once a week, and go through selected strategies related to effective practice, managing nerves, and achieving flow states under pressure. We’ll do some in-class playing experiments (don’t worry – you’ll be muted!), short weekly homework assignments, and small-group breakout sessions to help you integrate these new skills into your teaching.
This 6-week live course is normally $199, but is available at 50% off the regular cost when bundled with Beyond Practicing. For more details about the live course (and dates) CLICK HERE.