Many of our challenges as musicians involve overcoming mental barriers. When something goes wrong while practicing, it can be easy to repeat over and over, and judging each repetition as good or bad.
Mindless, repetitive practice has been outed as potentially destructive and sometimes harmful, and can be a source of anxiety versus learning. In its place, mindfulness and intention open us up to opportunities for discovery and help us learn with greater efficiency.
Setting an intention changes our mental state, allowing us to refocus on a simple musical or physical idea. Unlike a goal with an ending or point of achievement, an intention is on-going. If we stray from our intention, we can always come back at any time, reducing the pressure of perfection that can be associated with goal-setting.
An intention can be a simple word that we choose to embody or experience as we play. We can also phrase an idea as a question of curiosity to deflect anxiety and reduce self-judgement.
Here are some examples:
- What is it like to experience awareness of the entire room while I play?
- Why is so easy to play beautifully?
- I intend to embody brilliance.
- Feet Grounded
- Smoky Color
- Easy Fingers
- Why is is to easy to play pianissimo?
- I intend to continually release my jaw as I play.
- Like a Violin
- Listening to the sound in the room
- I intend to see and feel color as I play.
- Softness of Limbs
- What is it like to listen and experience each moment?
- What is it like to play as if I composed the piece myself?
- Play Gracefully
- I have plenty of breath. (Even if I feel I don't, I always tell myself this in the last phrase of the Mendelssohn Scherzo excerpt and it works!)
See more on the benefits of intention for overcoming performance anxiety in this post from The Bulletproof Musician: