Boost your Mental Game

The Mental Game of Music : SPARK Practice Mindsets for Musicians

mentalgameofmusic mindset musicianmindset peakperformance practiceforperformance Jul 29, 2023
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Welcome to the SPARK Practice Mindsets! 

This is the place to start! Having a nurturing outlook will help you practice the most effective pathways with the most efficiency - and just like everything, developing a nurturing mindset is something we need to practice.

Check out the video (transcript available) to learn more about the SPARK Practice Mindsets.

The @sparkpractice mindsets are :

  • Curiosity vs Assumption (or prejudice)
    • Curiosity is the opposite of assumption. It's the original glimmer of discovery and delight in the tingly feeling of learning and creation.
    • When you've already decided how something is going to go, you shut down the possibility of creating authentically (in performance brain) and leaving room for magic.
    • Assuming or Pre-Deciding the outcome cuts off circulation to creativity. How can you perform your best and express yourself if you're suffocating?
    • The fundamental driver of assumption is control. Feeling vulnerable is scary and activates our fear responses. It takes a lot of courage and practice to be curious.
    • Practicing curiosity cultivates resilience and confidence. This practice teaches your nervous system that letting go and moving to curious creativity is safe - even during stressful performances. 
  • Abundance vs Lack (or scarcity)
    • When we feel abundant, we know that we have what we need. The resources, knowledge, the safety of knowing that we would find the answers and have every opportunity. This is also the feeling that of course, the neutral outcome is positive. Of course it will work out. Abundance is expressed along the lines of "Oh, this will probably work out," "There are enough places to practice, I'll find a spot." Or "There are so many awesome places to learn and play, I'm sure I'll find the right school/teacher/festival/orchestra that fits me," or "I'm sure I can find a resource to get what I need about X."
    • Many people talk about this as it relates to money. However, fi we've been exposed long enough to the conservatory environment, we've probably encountered sentiments like "I won't share X teacher's fingerings/ bowings," or "Oh this practice trick/resource is my secret weapon, I'm keeping it to myself," etc. Lack mindset is classically expressed by the belief that there isn't enough pie for everyone.
    • Check out this interesting article from the University of Washington’s Right as Rain blog,and%20increases%20jealousy%20and%20stress.
  • Growth vs Fixed 
    • Growth feels like there is potential, that you are not done becoming who you want to be. Learning is fun, even though it’s challenging, and there’s a pleasure in the acquisition of new skills and knowledge. Growth suggests that we can use what we have to become who we want to be - that we are not inherently fixed in our cognition or potential. 
    • This can be a more challenging mindset to cultivate for those who were raised without privilege, those who were bullied, outcast, held down by systemic/institutional/cultural prejudice, “different”, or those from traumatic environments. However, it IS possible for everyone to reframe and build this mindset with practice. 
    • The basic paradigm is that we either believe that things "are the way they are," or that we can change, grow, learn, and develop new skills. This is well-documented, with many readily available resources for further study.
    • Check out Mindset by Carol Dweck, ISBN-10 : 0345472322
    • Further research needs to be done about the growth vs fixed mindset especially in the context of systemic racism and privilege. 
  • Courage vs Fear
    • There are many studies and articles that say that courage is the action in the face of fear and is also an ability to manage anxiety. However, I think that either there is fear or there is courage, and it’s a mindset in itself - and that we can practice leaning into courage more than fear. This is similar to the idea that we can’t create and criticize at the same time - and that we can cultivate the “muscle” of switching between the two.
    • This one is the simplest - and the most elusive. This idea is that all our actions and decisions are either based in fear or courage (love). Think about it. How would you go about your day if ALL your decisions were based in courage? How would it change from a place of fear? What would be similar or different? Is there one of those decisions that you can move towards a place of courage and start to make a different choice? Yes, I'm sure you can!
  • Building vs Breaking
    • This is the idea that some stress can actually be helpful. 
    • Just like in sports, emotional or psychological stress can be a “good pain” or “bad pain.” 
    • We actually need stress to build and grow - to push out our limits and integrate new skills, and a broader set of competences and experiences. 
    • Breaking stress can cause lasting physical, emotional, and psychological harm - like burnout, stress fractures, anxiety, panic disorders, etc. 
    • Learning nervous system regulation helps stabilize and evaluate whether stress is building or breaking, and building on the other SPARK Practice Mindsets, can help move forward in a nurturing and productive way.
    • Check out this podcast and interesting information out of the Huberman Lab


Big Questions 

  • Go through each mindset and see what sticks out to you the most - where do you tend to lean in each of the mindsets?
  • What are some of your assumptions about how your performances usually go?
  • What can you reframe with the SPARK Practice Mindsets?
  • Who are you becoming? What do you want to do that you can’t do yet? What’s one tiny little set towards those goals?
  • BONUS + What can you let go to clear your path?


Want to go further, learn the theory, and put it into action?

Join us September 4th for the Practice for Performance Open House online

DM "SPARK" to rsvp 1pmPST / 4pmEST / 19hUK / 20hCET

Happy Practicing!


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