“Brain Fatigue” and the Best Thing to Do on a Practice Break

Whether we’re practicing, studying, or doing our taxes, there comes a point where our brains begin to get a little fatigued, our thinking gets a little sluggish, and it’s difficult to think productively and creatively (though tax preparation is probably not the best time to be flexing our creativity muscles). Taking breaks is an important part of staying productive and getting past this “brain fatigue,” whether it’s the classic 50/10 split, the 25/5 “Pomodoro,” or the more unusual...


What Causes Choking Under Pressure? (And What Can We Do About It?)

What Causes Choking Under Pressure? (And What Can We Do About It?)

I remember my first studio class in grad school. I was set to play the 5th Paganini Caprice, which I knew well, and had played before in auditions and competitions. Yet I was feeling strangely nervous for this studio class, even though there wasn't really anything at stake. Needless to say, it did not go well. I rushed, played out of tune, flat-out missed a bunch of notes in the opening arpeggios, kept fumbling passages throughout, and there was no sense of line or direction musically. It was...


WOOP: A Goal-setting Strategy for People Who Don’t Believe in Goal-setting

WOOP: A Goal-Setting Strategy for People Who Don’t Believe in Goal-Setting

You know how many kids grow up with dreams of representing their country in the Olympics, or making the winning shot in the NBA playoffs? For me, it was winning a music competition like the Indianapolis, Tchaikovsky, or Van Cliburn (it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a pianist) that inspired me. And I did participate in a fair number of competitions as a child, but none were ever at that top-tier level. I always assumed that I’d get my act together and make this happen when I got to college,...


A Practice Hack That Could Significantly Boost Practice Efficiency (but Probably Won't Feel Like It)

A Practice Hack That Could Significantly Boost Practice Efficiency (but May Not Feel Like It In the Moment)

I don’t know if it’s true, or just my imagination, but I’ve always felt that my most productive practice years were actually my very earliest years, up until about the time I was in mid-to-late elementary school. In that period of my life, practice was structured in a very particular way. One key factor was that I practiced in multiple practice sessions per day - morning, afternoon, and evening. And not because I had so much rep to learn that it had to be split across multiple sessions,...


A Nifty Mental Hack to Help You Navigate Life’s Challenges More Masterfully

A Nifty Mental Hack to Help You Better Navigate Life’s Challenges

I remember sitting at my desk one day, in spring of my senior year, feeling a little overwhelmed about the idea of deciding where to go for college. I had an intriguing set of schools to choose from, but conspicuously absent from the list were the two schools that I really had my heart set on. And at that point in my life, receiving the telltale thin envelopes in the mail represented my biggest failure and disappointment. It doesn’t seem like such a big thing now, but at the time, it was a...