Getting The Most Out Of Practice: Chapter 4: (Self-Talk & Self-Image)

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By Jeff Comas



Our own self-talk influences the shape of our own self-image. Our self-image determines our beliefs about ourselves and what we can or cannot do, and even how we see the world. Our brains automatically tend to try to make true, that which we believe. If we say and/or think something frequently and/or consistently we will start to believe it. Let me give you some examples: If you believe “my job is boring” then you will find the reasons why your job is boring and it will be true. If you believe “I love riding my bike” then you will you will find the reasons why riding your bike is great and you will love riding your bike.

So if we say something like, “I can’t do that.” to ourselves enough times it will probably become true. So often I hear adults tell me “I just can’t play music.” and to them the statement is true, because it is what they believe. However, the fact is that virtually anyone can learn to play music, but it takes time, commitment, and a belief that it can be learned. So what happened to make them believe that they “can’t” play music? Chances are that somewhere in their childhood they tried for a brief time but focused on the difficulties of learning music instead of the progress they had made. This in turn lead to giving up and the belief that they “can’t” play music, and the more they said it or thought it, the truer it became.

One of the worst mistakes a student of music (or any subject for that matter) can make is to engage in negative self-talk about themselves and learning. If your child tells himself or herself that he or she “hates” math, they will find the reasons math why is difficult and it will prove their hate of math is justified. On the flipside, if your child thinks of math like a game or a puzzle then they may have a completely different view that is just as true to them.

…virtually anyone can learn to play music, but it takes time, commitment, and a belief that it can be learned.

Over the years I have seen many students create self-fulfilling prophecies. Students say things like “Counting music messes me up.” Or- “I struggle with rhythm.” Or, “I just can’t get the hang of reading music.” These things usually become true because the student believes it. What makes these kind of thoughts worse is that if your child does not believe that he or she can do it, they will probably not even try. Why should they, if they are sure they won’t have success?

This is why positive self-talk is so important for success with learning and playing music (and anything else really). If we replace our negative talk with affirmative words and thoughts, we will start believing that. I’m going to give you some general statements that your child (or you) should use to help improve learning music.

• I’m proud of the music I have learned

• I get better every time I play music

• I can learn a little more everyday

• I love music, it is easy and fun for me to learn

• I naturally count and learn rhythms with ease

• I can learn my music in small parts that are easy to understand and do

• I remember note names and relate them to my instrument

• I can clearly imagine my music

• I like to play music everyday

You can customize new statements to suit your current situation. For example: If you have an upcoming recital you might say- “I feel good about my upcoming recital, because I know I will be well prepared.” Or- “This performance will be easy, because I know my music so well.” You could, of course, modify statements for other subjects too. I think you get the idea.

I’ll wrap up here by suggesting you say, or have your child say, positive statements, out loud, just before practice. The brain will automatically try to make them true. Keep doing it and do it with other things in your life too. I’m betting you see a difference.

Jeff Comas



Jeff Comas started playing music at 5 years of age. He is the owner of Allied Music Instructors. He has been a music educator since 1989, and has given over 40,000 music lessons.

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