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The Self-Observer Discrepancy: Why You Think You Sound Worse on Stage Than You Really Do

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This article originally appeared on Bulletproof Musician.

 

I recently had to record myself on video for a project at school, and even worse, had to watch it numerous times in editing. It drove me kind of crazy. Why do I have my head angled upwards and tilted like that? What's up with that weird twitchy thing I do when speaking? Why am I talking so fast? Ack, the horror…

It's easy to nitpick and microanalyze and dwell on such details. Which feels pretty crappy. So not surprisingly, many of us avoid watching video of our performances, even though it can be a hugely helpful self-study aid. After all, video doesn't lie – so it can help us identify what elements of our performance need work. Do we look stiff? Bored? Move around too much? And how do we sound? Convincing? Dynamic and compelling? Or timid, careful, or uncertain?

Is It More Effective to Practice Scales and Etudes in the Morning?

Image via bulletproofmusician.com

This article originally appeared on Bulletproof Musician.

 

I don't remember the day when I first laid eyes on the glossy burgundy cover of the Carl Flesch scale book, but I do remember that summer when it went from one of those books that collected dust on the shelf to one which took up permanent residence on my music stand. Until that time, scales were a mostly neglected part of my practice regimen. A chore, that I (mistakenly) thought was just for beginners.

I was working with a new teacher that summer, and he insisted that I begin devoting some time to scales every morning. And to make sure I would follow through, he spent a good bit of my lessons teaching me how to practice scales – what to listen for, what to work on, fingerings, bowing, and variations galore. It was to be the very first thing I did each day, like taking my Flintstones vitamins.

According to This Study, You Might Need to Spend Less Time Practicing Your Instrument

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This article originally appeared on The Bulletproof Musician.

 

I spent most of my life as a chronic under-practicer. So the experience of practicing too much was uncharted territory… until the time in grad school when I crammed for a competition. There was plenty of time for me to learn and polish all the rep, but it was several rounds of music, and I waited far too long to get serious about my preparation. Several months out, I knew I was in a bit of trouble.

So for once in my life, I cranked it up to 11. I forced myself to practice way more than normal. When I wasn't practicing, I was listening to the music. When I wasn't listening, I was mentally rehearsing the rep. When I wasn't engaged in mental practice, I was worrying, stressing, or thinking about it. I ate, slept, and breathed music, the intensity of my preparation only increasing as the competition drew nearer.

Naps vs. Coffee: Which Is a Better Choice for the Sleep-Deprived Musician?

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This article originally appeared on The Bulletproof Musician.

 

Naps were a way of life for me in college (though it's debatable whether a four-hour "nap" still qualifies as such), and there are indications that napping is becoming a more culturally accepted practice as companies like Google, the Huffington Post, Zappos, and Nike are encouraging employees to nap instead of insisting that they try to simply power through the mental fog of a mid-day lull.

Indeed, the literature suggests that we can derive a whole range of benefits from sleep – from better focus and performance to happiness and apparently even greater attractiveness. However, when we can't get the sleep we need (and really, isn't that all of us?), coffee or an energy drink still seem to be the old standbys.

Sure, these can perk you up a bit. And yes, they can enhance concentration and attention. But what sort of impact does caffeine have on memory and learning? Can caffeine keep you alert enough to think clearly and learn effectively, or is a good old fashioned power nap still the way to go?