PRACTICE WITHOUT YOUR INSTRUMENT
Ten Minute Virtuoso – Expanded Explanation

This is one of the most mind-boggling ideas that has come out of scientific research in psychology and in deliberate practice. It turns out that the parts of the brain that light up on scans when people are actually doing an activity (like playing an instrument) also light up when people are visualizing doing the very same activity!

This is an extraordinarily valuable piece of information for musicians. It means that doing visualizations can have a positive effect on your playing – just like actually practicing.

When I say “visualization,” I’m not talking about casually thinking about playing your instrument. I’m talking about putting in a concentrated effort that is as multi-sensory as possible. You want to see, hear, and feel what’s going on during your visualization. You want to make it seem as real as possible. Then, in your visualization, you can work out a complex technical challenge or play through a song.

Let’s get back to “casually thinking” that I mentioned earlier. Though this type of thought will not produce the same results as a full-blown visualization exercise, it can still be valuable to you. When you’re engaged in other activities (and when your instrument is nowhere near you), thinking about playing can be extremely useful as a planning tool. And, this can give you nearly limitless amounts of time for becoming a better musician.

So, if you only have a short amount of time available every day for practicing your instrument, your thoughts can still be focused on music. This will be very helpful for your musical development, and it can make otherwise mindless situations a lot more interesting.

What to Think About When You Don’t Have Your Instrument

–song form
–each entrance you have in a song
–the one or two bars you still can’t play well: hear them accurately
–counting in at the correct tempo
–dynamics and phrasing ideas
–planning for your next practice session
–your playing goals for this week

Times to Play Without Your Instrument

–while brushing your teeth, shaving, or taking a shower
–when taking a walk, running, at the gym or during any other exercise
–during commercials on TV or online
–while driving (an amazing stress release in stop-and-go traffic)
–when commuting on subways, trains, buses, ferries, etc
–at work waiting for a meeting to start
–during your breaks at work (much better for you than office gossip)

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