While this might sound silly, learning to play music mentally is one of the best practice methods. All practice is mental practice. While the action of playing an instrument has a physiological component, learning and practicing is much more of a mental experience than anything else. In fact, recent brain scan tests have found that there is no difference in brain activity between someone playing an instrument or just thinking about playing an instrument!
In college I had come down with mononucleosis when I was scheduled to play a solo recital. I had become very weak but was determined to play the program. An hour and half a day is about all the practice I could handle – and that was about how long the program was. Needless to say, this was not enough time to practice. Determined to succeed despite my physical ailment, I tried something new. I ended up taking all my scores into bed with me and I practiced mentally. To my surprise, the performance ended up being the best I had ever had by far! But how can this be?
Don’t hop into bed with your musical scores just yet! You have to develop technique and playing your instrument is essential. However, you should continue practicing even when you are away from your instrument. Imagine the performance in great detail, every sound and action. By doing this you will be able to hear the music exactly how you want it to sound so you can develop your performance. Learning your music mentally away from your instrument will help you identify problem spots you didn’t know existed before. You may be depending upon tactile memory on some passages and you may realize that you don’t actually know the music as well as you thought.
Here is a great exercise for you: Take a piece you are very familiar with, remove the score, and try and play it mentally. Play as far as you can go without stopping and when you have to stop, refer back to the score and start again until you can play the entire piece from memory away from your instrument. If you do this, you will have mastered that piece of music better than any other piece you’ve played before. Whenever I play a recital I play my music in my head constantly before the performance. I make sure I can get through difficult sections again and again until things are totally clear. There is great reassurance in performance when you know your scores on this level.
Thanks again for joining me, Robert@LivingPianos.com 949-244-3729