The importance of mental preparation in music performance

In my research on the optimization of the guitar technique, I quickly realized that an element had to muddy the waters. I could greatly increase my potential, but unfortunately, the performance was not always there under stress. Then I recalled a quote that my karate master repeated to me endlessly: ” Who dominates the other one is strong. Who dominates himself is powerful. ” ( Lao-Tseu)

As I drew a lot of information for my research in the field of Sport kinesiology. It was quite normal for me to look to the athletes and their mental preparation to performance to see if there were elements applicable to musical performance. The high-level musician compares easily to high-ranking athletes by his physiological performance (endurance), long hours of training and development, work in precision, need of constant concentration, high stakes (pressure), and no second chance. Finally, one mistake, however, small it may be, has the potential to ruin performance. There are many examples of problems caused by performance anxiety as tremors, forgetfulness, physical cramps, lack of saliva, rhythmic problems, problems of auditory and visual perception… Many musicians are reluctant to seek psychological help to overcome their own limitations. Many mistakenly believe that their physical preparation is sufficient, others believe that the one who needs mental support is a weak person. In our society, there is a negative bias against the use of a psychologist or a mental trainer. Brain’s functions are poorly understood by the population, and using the help of psychologists remains taboo. ” It is easier to disintegrate an atom than a prejudice. ” (A. Einstein) However, the effectiveness of mental preparation is unequivocal.

The great virtuoso we all admire also relies on techniques of psychological optimization to overcome their fears, their beliefs and all forms of deadlocks. The performance equation: Performance = potential – mental interference. We often try to increase our level of performance by increasing our potential, but we can significantly improve performance by reducing our level of mental interference. The next few posts will address how the brain and hormonal system react during the stage performance and practical ways to transform performance anxiety into a positive thing. Then we will discuss how biomechanics can help overcome our technical problems. I am  giving master classes and lectures on the subject. If you are interested in having a master class on the subject, leave me a private message in my mailbox.

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.) 2018