choking under pressure

heimlichSometimes I wish there was a heimlich maneuver for the mind.  Many a time I’ve sat down to play a gig that was very important to me, and my nerves have gotten the better of me.  It’s a sucky feeling–one that I’d say almost everyone has felt before, and I think this article in Scientific American on “Choking Under Pressure” is of special interest to other performing artists.

I think I’ve slowly gotten better, learned to calm my mind and focus at those critical moments.  One breakthrough for me came when I realized that when you practice, you should not only practice the material you’re trying to learn, but also the mental state you want to be in when you’re performing it.  So I started to change my practice habit; I would not only focus on the notes I’m playing, but on my breathing, my posture, the tension in my muscles, and my mental state.  It’s not easy.  Paying attention to all those things, while simultaneously reading synchopated rhythms and orchestrating them in all four limbs is not really something the human mind was set up to do naturally.  Being hyper-aware like this is essentially the goal of meditation, and conceptualizing practice in this way has been an important change for me.   They definitely don’t teach you this in band class.

Published in: on February 12, 2009 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  

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