Lucky charms and magical thinking: Can superstition enhance performance?

Good Luck Charms and Quirky Pre-Performance Routines: Can Superstition Enhance Performance?

Have you ever knocked on wood? Tossed salt over your shoulder? Went out of your way to avoid walking under a ladder? Even if you’re usually a very logical and pragmatic person, there is probably a quirky superstition or two that you go along with from time to time. And when it comes to uncertain, stressful situations like performances, competitions, or auditions (particularly those in which … [Read more...]

Help Your Student Learn Better by Making Them the Teacher

Help Your Student Really Learn Something by Making Them the Teacher

In school, athletics, music, and pretty much anywhere else, we seem to do an awful lot of testing. Exams, quizzes, tests, games, matches, meets, recitals, auditions, concerts, juries...it seems there's no end to the testing we do. Don't get me wrong - it’s not that testing is inherently evil, or necessarily such a bad thing all the time. For instance, testing (a.k.a. retrieval practice) does … [Read more...]

the unheralded benefits of mindlessness, mind-wandering, and daydreaming

The Unheralded Benefits of Mindlessness, Mind-Wandering, and Daydreaming

From scoring higher on the GRE's to boosting mental toughness in Marines to improving peak performance in Olympic athletes to maximizing happiness for all of us, mindfulness seems to be all the rage nowadays. And there are indeed a ton of benefits from developing our ability to be more present and engaged in the moment. But sheesh, sometimes being mindful can be so exhausting. Is … [Read more...]

top posts of 2014

2014’s Most Popular Posts

Happy 2015! I have to admit that I'm not really a New Years resolutions sort of person, but I do like aiming to , and developing habits and processes (which are often more effective than goals). The beginning of a new year is as good a time as any to make some changes, so if you're still shopping around for something new to try, here are 10 to choose from (otherwise known as 2014's most … [Read more...]

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Why Practicing While Distracted Is Actually Very Important (Sometimes)

Like any other child, I had many moments when I wished I could practice while reading a book or watching TV. Like passing the time while driving by listening to music, I thought it would be awesome to be able to simply move my fingers while engaged in some other more entertaining activity, and still make progress. I tried (and failed) to make that work, and am surely not the only one who has … [Read more...]

learn quicker by focusing less on what your body is doing

Learn Quicker by Thinking Less about What Your Body Is Doing

I'm not much of a tennis player, but I wanted to give my kids an introduction to the sport last summer, so we picked up some kid-sized rackets and headed out to do some hitting. Naturally, I started by walking them through the basic grip, stance, and swing...and managed to overwhelm them with instructions and paralyze them with too many things to think about. I also totally sucked all the fun out … [Read more...]

3 reasons why you may be stuck on a plateau

3 Reasons Why You May Be Stuck on a Plateau

As a child, I always loved getting new pieces to learn. It was all fresh, new, exciting stuff - and I sounded like garbage. So I'd happily set about learning notes, figuring out bowings and fingerings, and working at things until it sounded better. Progress was usually pretty quick and very satisfying. But then I'd reach a point where everything seemed to progress more slowly. Where getting to … [Read more...]

which is better - playing to win or playing not to lose?

Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose – Which Leads to Choking Under Pressure?

I remember my dad showing me this picture when I was a little kid, asking me - "What is this a picture of?" A duck, I said. He asked if I saw anything else - which didn't make sense to me, because all there was to see was a duck. But when I could finally see that it wasn't just a duck, I wanted to know which one was the "true" image. Was it really a duck that also happened to look like a … [Read more...]

Evidence That Pianists Might Have It Tougher than the Rest of Us When It Comes to Performing from Memory

Evidence That Pianists Might Have It Tougher than the Rest of Us When It Comes to Performing from Memory

Back in college, my wife and I would good-naturedly debate which was the more difficult instrument - violin (my instrument) or piano (her instrument). I would always throw out the intonation card, while she would fire back with the claim that the sheer number of notes pianists have to play (and memorize) trumped intonation. When it comes to discussions about memorization, and whether … [Read more...]

When Mistakes Are Good: A Counterintuitive Strategy for Rapidly Fixing Bad Habits in Our Technique

When Mistakes Are Good: A Counterintuitive Strategy for Rapidly Fixing Bad Habits in Our Technique

We all have habits. Some good - like eating healthily, exercising regularly, and squeezing toothpaste from the bottom of the tube. And others not so good - like skipping breakfast, "text neck", and leaving wet bath towels on the floor. It's no different when it comes to music - we all have various good and bad technique habits as well. Those bugaboos we keep struggling to rid ourselves of, but … [Read more...]