Re: Manic practice syndrome

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Posted by Craig Hall on February 11, 1999 at 03:18:14:

In Reply to: Manic practice syndrome posted by Sean Chisham on February 10, 1999 at 17:10:10:

This has long been a topic of particular interest to me. As a circuit-band veteren, playing six nights a week, I often felt that way about performances as well as practice sessions. I would hazard a guess that most people go through the same thing. I believe Roger summed it up the best:"This is a sign that your mind is not ready to practice."
Both Roger's and Jay's posts contain salient points. Roger points out that the problem is mental- it is your attitude that is different (viewpoint, I believe he said). Jay says the way he combats this phenomenon is through consistency. He approaches the horn the same way, each day. Plays the same warm-up routine...(and sits on the same piano bench, uses the same tuba stand so his tuba is always the same height, too - if I recall correctly from an earlier post. You probably practice at the same time every day too, right Jay?)
We don't think twice about preparing our bodies for practice, warm-ups are necessary, it is an accepted fact. But what about preparing our minds? This is as important for practice as it is for performance. There are a number of models, many examples can be found in the preparation of Olympic atheletes. Some of the techniques used:
1. Positive Mental Imagery
(visualizing yourself succeeding before you begin)
2. Ritual
(approaching the task the same way, everytime, to put yourself in a mental "comfort zone". )
3. Clearing the Mind
(getting rid of mental distractions, to allow yourself to focus on the task at hand. Mantras, meditation, vigourous physical exercise, Zen, staring at a flame- whatever it takes)

This is where practice logs come in handy, when you have a particularly good day you can examine what you did. How did you approach the horn that day? What were you feeling like? How is this different from other days?
You may find out you play your best on the days you had Wheaties for breakfast!
This mental preparation need not be extreme- Howard mentioned laying out his etudes, forming a clear mental plan before begining. I believe Jay's routine alone puts him in the proper state (Florida, LOL).
When things are going poorly, take a moment to refocus. Get back to basics (to restablish the comfort zone), And tackle it again.

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