Practice Your Music in Your Head

As musicians, we need to make time to practice our music. This is a fact of life if we want to improve our craft. But how do you practice? Do you have to be in front of an instrument to get better? Well, I’ll tell you, practicing in your head is just as effective as playing. 

Although it's most enjoyable to physically play an instrument, we can still make progress by using the imaginative power of our minds. We can play the song, just like we do on our instrument, but by imaging the movements and techniques in our heads; we can get similar results.

The cool thing about this is that it’s just as effective as playing the music on a real instrument. There have been many studies regarding skill acquisition—one that I came across recently was in the book Psycho-Cybernetics written by Maxwell Maltz.

In the book, the author talks about a test conducted on three different groups involving basketball drills—one group that practiced, one that imagined going through the movements in their heads, and one that took no action. The results of the study were extremely clear; the group that imagined practicing improved almost identically to the group that went through the physical drills.

This is great news for musicians!

We don’t have to be near our guitar or piano to make progress on a song. Not only does this save time but also is a relief to know that we can rehearse in the car, on an airplane, in the mountains—anywhere we choose!

Another example from the book cites a famous piano player who never practiced the traditional way. When he was asked how he was so successful he stated that he played the music “in his head.”

Keep in mind I’m not suggesting that you should only practice in your mind. Just that you can still get results if you don’t have an instrument around. When you’re in that situation, make sure that you have the piece memorized, and then rehearse it in your head as if you were playing it on your instrument. It’s as simple as that.

So let’s conduct an experiment—pick a new song, memorize it, then practice daily for a week, but only in your head. Check the results. I know from experience that you will be pleasantly surprised with your “mind practicing.”

Happy practicing!