Has anyone talked to you about the mental game
of music? That's what this article will do. I have a background
as a musician, from elementary school through high school, and after
I graduated, I had a stint as a professional musician. I played
trombone, and was fortunate to grow up in the Williamsville Central
School District (New York State), where we were able to win numerous
concert band competitions around the US, eventually achieving a
number three US national ranking. After high school I had the great
fortune to play a concert with the Grammy-award winning composer
and musical artist Chuck Mangione, who is known for his hit pop
pieces, "Hill Where the Lord Hides", "Chase The Clouds
Away", "Feels So Good", and his popular albums Land
of Make Believe, and Chase The Clouds Away. Mangione's composition
"Chase the Clouds Away" was used as the theme song at the 1976 Summer
Olympics, held in Montreal. Quebec. Clearly, Chuck Mangione is one
of the peak performers in the mental game of music. Learn more about
So music has always been near and dear to my heart, and it has taught
me many life lessons, and many performance lessons that I teach
to this day as a mental game coach.
Here are two fast tips that can help improve your mental game of
Visualize Success: Many musicians regularly imagine what
might happen in a performance if they freeze up, become too nervous,
forget what to do, get tight and generally fall apart in front of
an audience. Those are scary scenarios. And actually, when you think
like this, you are in effect giving yourself PTSD in advance. PTSD
is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Not to minimize PTSD, but when
we humans imagine disaster scenes, and how we could fail, we are
really creating fear memories inside of us. But just as these visualizations
can go in a bad directiona negative one they can be
reversed, and they can go in a positive direction. The trick is
to be aware of what you allow in your mind, and not to allow anything
damaging to your confidence. It's helpful to focus on your past
performance successes to create present excellence. Experienced
performers have a "success bank account" filled with their inspiring,
memorable performances and zone moments. They re-imagine these energizing
images when they need a boost of confidence before a performance,
or in-between pieces inside the actual performance.
As you visualize a previous successful performance, notice a few
key things. How did you feel in your muscles? I bet they felt relaxed,
yet energized. What emotions were you experiencing? You were probably
positive and happy. Was your mind clear and focused? That's the
opposite of a choking experience, where the mind is full of worries,
self-instruction and self-incrimination over mistakes. Were you
enjoying the experience? How was the audience reacting? How were
any fellow musicians reacting if you were playing in a group? Did
you seem to have plenty of time to execute? And I bet your senses
were alert, but not hyper-vigilant. This is the zone, in action.
Review other past performances you had like this and you'll see
the common thread of mental excellence running through them all.
This is the mental game of music at its best.
Breathing Is Your Best Friend: I often tell a story about
two young kids who go to the band director's office in elementary
school. They ask if he can teach them how to play the trumpet. He
says yes, and to sit down while he goes to get the instruments.
When the director comes back, one boy asks him, "I won't have to
learn any of that breathing stuff, will I?" This story highlights
what many performers need to know. Breath control is everything
when it comes to performing. This is regardless of whether you play
a wind instrument or not. Your breath is the window to your sense
of calm, your energy and your focus. Your breath is always in the
present time zone, and of course we perform in the present. Our
regrets and anger over mistakes live in the past. Our worries and
what-ifs live in the future. Only the present holds the key to giving
a great performance. An easy way to access the present is to be
breath-focused. Check in on your breath from time to time. Listen
to it and feel it as you take inhalations and exhalations. When
you breath deeply the day of an audition or performance, you allow
your lungs to expand, blood to flow, and muscles to relax. Deep
breathing disrupts scared, high, shallow breathing, which is part
and parcel of the stress response of stage fright. As you become
more in tune with your breath, you will make contact with the now.
Do this often enough, and at a quality level, and you may even summon
Now you have some new mental insights into the mental game of music.
And now you know more about how to handle your mind, and how to
manage your stress and energy and focus. I know you'll take these
out to your next performance and put them to good use. Good luck!
For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an
assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths
and weaknesses. Here is a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport
psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot.
This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and
weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating
your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program
you undertake with mental coach
Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment
would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture
about your mental game.
Copyright © 2014 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance,
mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William
B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals
achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International
Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing
the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching
worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school
alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles,
and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time
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