Part 2 - The Key Ingredient Missing from Your Practice
You spend a lot of time working on technique. Your ability to play fast. To play difficult lines.
You spend a lot of time learning tunes, vocabulary and maybe even theory.
All these things are important.
But you’re still ignoring one key aspect that applies no matter what instrument you play, what style you play in, or what level you play at.
It’s your mind.
Your mental skills ALWAYS affect what you play. Failure to develop them will hold you back massively.
As Olympic diving coach Jeff Huber put it:
“Having mental skills won’t guarantee you an Olympic medal. But the LACK of mental skills will guarantee losing one”
You don't have to be sick to get better
Some musicians think that you only need to work on your mental skills if you’re experiencing problems.
So why do all the top sportsmen and women work so hard on this?
If anyone’s mentally tough, it’s them.
Yet they still choose to work on it every day.
And it makes a big difference
Before the 1988 Olympic games, Steven Ungerleider and Jacqueline Golding surveyed 1200 athletes.
They compared those who eventually qualified for the Olympics with those who narrowly missed out.
The two groups looked similar. They all trained hard, got plenty of sleep and ate well.
The only significant difference was that the successful athletes were doing MORE mental training than the ones who didn’t make the cut.
Even in purely physical events – more mental training equals better performance.
How does this work for musicians?
Haven’t musicians realised this already?
And, of course, pretty much all the great musicians have.
As young musicians were “paying their dues” they had the older guys acting as mentors.
They mastered their trade on the bandstand as much as in the practice room.
As Hal Galper recalled from playing with Cannonball Adderly:
“Let me make this very clear; to learn what I had to learn to play the gig, it took constant playing with these particular guys, three sets a night, for 50 weeks straight. This was the real school of the bandstand.”
But the mentor system has disappeared for most musicians. The modern world doesn’t work like that anymore.
So, you’re going to need some other way to get that sort of training.
It's not all bad news...
We’ve got advantages that the great musicians of the past didn’t have.
Sports psychology and other areas provide techniques that can reliably boost your mental skills.
We talked earlier about how pros focus relentlessly on their limiting factors.
This probably means your mental skills.
That might sound bad, but it’s actually good news!
It means that you could see massive growth if you choose to work on them. When you start from a low base in a skill then you improve rapidly.
Even musicians who have developed good mental skills naturally, without realising it, will see a huge improvement if they deliberately dedicate time to them.
No idea how to actually work on your mental skills?
Fear not – I’ll show you that now.