The Ultimate Performance

The Ultimate performance Floor Le Coultre, Violin, c011989, 31-10-13 Main subject teacher: Ilona Sie Dhian Ho Researchco

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The Ultimate performance Floor Le Coultre, Violin, c011989, 31-10-13 Main subject teacher: Ilona Sie Dhian Ho Researchcoaches: Patrick van Deurzen and Philip Curtis Format: Research Paper



Index              -­‐            Introduction

-­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐

Ultimate performance Definition of Music performance anxiety Methods Brains Concentration in sports R. Nideffer Circles Performance based approach Survey Experiences Conclusion Bibliography

p.3 p.4 p.6 p.8 p.9 p.11 p.13 p.14 p.19 p.21 p.26 p.27




Introduction I as a musician love music. And I love to give my emotions to the audience. But I don’t like the fact that I’m sometimes distracted on stage by intern thoughts. Insecure thoughts about my ability to perform the way are expected by me or by the audience. Sometimes I’m distracted from the music because I need my focus to control my body. There can come too much tension in my body and all I focus on is loosen it up during the performance. I already know for sure that I’m not the only one who wishes to be more in the performance. Listening to stories about performance experiences from my colleagues made me aware of a general similarity. I have experienced performances where I’m totally absorbed in the music. I actually stopped thinking and was just playing… I hope by owning more information about the psychology behind music performance, I get more tools to work on my ultimate performance. After making contact with prof. Jane Ginsborg (contact of Philip Curtis) from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester I got in touch with a PHD student of her, Anna. I asked them about books and articles written about the psychology of the performance. There is a huge amount of literature. Especially the last 10-20 years Music performance anxiety has taken a great interest under psychologists. Research to help athletes or businessmen has developed in an earlier stage already. It was also interesting to read books/articles about sport psychology. It made me aware that the focus athletes need to perform is very comparable to the focus musicians need on stage. The articles and books have given me very valuable information. I have now a much better overview to show other musicians what distractions (from being in the music) there can be and how on stage you can learn to control these distractions to get back into the music (or to get into the flow of the music). In this research I first would like to discuss the ultimate performance. My research question is: How to obtain the ultimate performance? But what is the ultimate performance? For me it’s the flow of the music that makes me stop thinking about anything. It’s described by the American/Hungarian psychologist Csikszentmihalyi1 as being in the flow state. But how do my colleagues experience the ultimate performance? And what happens to them when they are not having their ultimate performance? A lot of research has been done in explaining what can be the causes and consequences when the musician feels the pressure of the expectations to perform. Psychologists have invented many therapies to help the people who have obtained an anxiety to go on stage. Dianna Kenny has put attention also on the performance-based approach, which I would like to use in this research. Martine van der Loo and Liesbeth Citroen exposed also very useful tips to master your body and mental strength before during and after a concert. Martine van der Loo is a well-known mental coach for musicians, based in The Hague. 29th of November I had a very nice talk with her way of working with musicians who need and want to improve their anxiety to go on stage. Wieke Karsten, flute teacher in the school, knows a lot about the function of the brains and how the brain influence practicing and performing. I’ve included some of her ideas as well. Finally I will show methods by Dianna Kenny and Martine van der Loo/Citroen and experiences from colleagues and myself by using a survey.



The Ultimate Performance How do I obtain the ultimate performance? Remember the feeling of you being on stage, in total control of your instrument, feeling the music very intensively and being able to give more and more to the audience… just you and the music… Csikszentmihalyi (1985) has introduced the term flow state which he has described as an intrinsically motivated experience or self-rewarding activity. A state in which the individual is so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. When an individual is in a flow state, there is a loss of awareness of time. When an individual is in the flow state, attention is focused almost exclusively on internal thought processes. The normal shifting of attention between external to an internal focus has been dramatically reduced.2 To achieve a state of complete clarity and purpose, even euphoria, through the capacity to concentrate intensely. It entails the capacity to shut out irrelevant stimuli and focus at great depth on the task at hand, often causing a person to lose the normal sense of time and self in which one is both actor and observer. Csikszentmihalyi believes the pleasure deriving from the flow state has an autonomous reality that must be understood on its own terms. Measurements of brain activity during flow states suggest that the flow may induce a special neurological state that is associated with a decrease in cortical activity (Pruett, 1987) To be in a flow on stage can be the ultimate performance experience for a musician. Achieving the ultimate performance includes a capacity or intense focus on the required motor performance that precludes distractions or intrusions, and the capacity to reproduce a maximal level of performance consistently under a wide range of environmental contingencies, for example, from practice to a competitive event. Milton (American psychiatrist) and his colleagues found a significant decrease in the overall volume of brain activation accompanied by a relative increase in the intensity of activation of specific brain regions necessary for the execution of the task by experts. The quality of performance was due to the level of organization of neural networks during motor planning.3 Besides the focus to the required motor performance, it is necessary to have the right amount of arousal. Too little causes lack of interest and therefor the difficulty to put effort. Too much arousal gives you a strong physiological reaction. This will draw away your attention that needs to be put in the music. It’s necessary to reach the right amount of arousal. This is called facilitating performance anxiety.4 If the organization in the brain is interrupted by intern or extern distractions, your focus on the execution of the task diminishes. Reasons for interruptions of your focus can be the pressure to give the perfect performance.

                                                                                                                2  Getting into the optimal Performance state by Robert m. Nideffer ph.D   3  The  psychology  of  music  performance  anxiety  by  Dianna  Kenny  (2011)   4  Podiumangst  by  Citroen/Van  Der  Loo  p.28    


This can result in the explicit monitoring theory or the distraction theory… Explicit monitoring theory postulates that with pressure, the performer focuses attention on the step-by-step processes in an attempt to execute the task correctly (Baumeister, 1984; Masters, 1992). While such explicit focus of attention is necessary in the initial stages of learning (Anderson, 1982), once the skill becomes proceduralized, a musician cannot consciously attend to all notes and finger positions when performing in real time. Attempts to monitor these processes may disrupt the automaticity of task performance.5 According to the Distraction theory (Wine, 1971; Eysenck, 1979, 1992) performance degradation is a result of attentional shifts to task-irrelevant information. In music performance, examples of task-irrelevant information include: fear of forgetting the notes when playing from memory, fear of not being able to play a difficult passage, or fear of public failure and subsequent shame. Task-irrelevant information is said to reduce the amount of working memory available for task performance. That’s why playing by memory is more likely to be affected by pressure than tasks that are performed more intuitively or automatically (Maddox & Ashby, 2004)26 These two theories give information to realize what can hinder you from obtaining your ultimate performance. Recently (past 10/20 years) more research had been done to music performance anxiety. Dianna Kenny wrote a very extensively book about music performance anxiety. Dianna Kenny draws on a range of disciplines including psychology, philosophy, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and performance theory in order to explain the many facets of music performance anxiety that have emerged in the empirical and clinical literature. Music performance anxiety needs to be explained, since the term music performance anxiety is quite extensive. For my research it is important to understand the difference between the severe form of music performance anxiety and nervousness what I believe to be very normal and even necessary for musicians.

                                                                                                                5  Performance degration under pressure in music: an examination of attentional processes: catherine y.wan and gail f. Huon (2005)                6  The  psychology  of  music  performance  anxiety  by  Dianna  Kenny  (2011)    


Music Performance Anxiety The experience of anxiety is no stranger to the majority of people whose brief is to perform in front of others. In many ways, as Shakespeare asserts, life itself is a performance- ‘all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’but for some, center stage or center court is a threatening and frightening place to be, and playing one’s part is made difficult by the experience of unwanted emotions, thoughts and behaviors.(Dianna Kenny) There are several features that are typical of people who express their anxiety. First, there is catastrophic thinking (one mistake means the end of the world), then post-performance rumination (it takes a long time or never? to recover from a performance with which the performer was not happy); next, unrealistic goal-setting and extreme perfectionism; finally, an inability to take please or comfort in the positive aspects of the performance.7 The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) does not attempt to differentiate between performance anxiety, stage fright and shyness in social situations. Mild music performance anxiety does not need to interfere negatively with performance. Many musicians even think they need a little anxiety to facilitate their performance (Kirchner, 2003). Wolfe (1989) noted that music performance anxiety can have both positive and negative effects on performance. He identified two adaptive and two maladaptive components of music performance anxiety. The adaptive components are arousal/intensity and confidence/competence. The maladaptive components are nervousness/apprehension (fear) and self-consciousness/distractibility. The articles I’ve explored are mainly focused on the performance anxiety which is described by Salmon (1990) as: The experience of persisting, distressful apprehension about and/or actual impairment of, performance skills in a public context, to a degree unwarranted given the individual’s aptitude, training, and level of preparation.8 Dianna Kenny doesn’t agree with this definition. She thinks this definition lacks precision concerning to a degree unwarranted given the individual’s aptitude, training, and level of preparation. Research shows that musicians of all ages, levels of aptitude, training, experience, and preparation report music performance anxiety. (Kenny, p.49). She writes: Music performance anxiety is the experience of marked and persistent anxious apprehension related to musical performance that has arisen through underlying biological and/or psychological vulnerabilities and/or specific anxiety-conditioning experiences. It is manifested through combinations of affective, cognitive, somatic, and behavioral symptoms. It may occur in a range of performance settings, but is usually more severe in settings involving high ego investment, evaluative threat (audience), and fear of failure. It may be focal (which means, focused only on music performance), or occur comorbidly with other anxiety disorders, in particular social phobia. It affects musicians across the lifespan and is at least partially independent of years of training,                                                                                                                 7  The  psychology  of  music  performance  anxiety  by  Dianna  Kenny  (2011)   8  Psychological  treatment  of  musical  performance  anxiety:  current  status  and  future   directions  by  Anne  M.  McGinnis  and  Leonard  S.  Milling    


practice, and level of musical accomplishment. It may or may not impair the quality of the musical performance (Kenny, 2009, )9 In this definition music performance anxiety can be seen as a definition that can be applied to nervousness, which has a positive effect on the performance, and the severe anxiety that leads to total blocking and horrible experiences on stage. The book ‘Podiumangst’ by Van Der Loo and Citroen states that the difference between music performance anxiety and nervousness is the period when there is the anxiety. It’s resp. before and especially on stage or just the moments before you go on stage…10

                                                                                                                9  The  psychology  of  music  performance  anxiety  by  Dianna  Kenny    p.61   10  Podiumangst  by  Citroen/Van  Der  Loo  p.24    


Methods Many researches have been done in developing treatments for the pressure that causes Music Performance Anxiety. Recently there has been a significant increase in research involving the treatment of music performance anxiety. Music performance anxiety is considered to need a different kind of approach in comparison to social phobia. 11 The treatments can be grouped into seven areas according to the type of treatment approaches: 1) Psychoanalytic/psychodynamic Therapies 2) Behavior, cognitive, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 3) New wave cognitive behavioral therapies 4) Multimodal therapies 5) Other interventions for music performance anxiety 6) Emotion-based therapies 7) Pharmacotherapy for anxiety disorders As I stated in the chapter about music performance anxiety, there are different forms in which a musician is affected by music performance anxiety. As for this research my goal is to find a way to the ultimate performance. The treatments described above are very intense and psychological. It’s very personal to choose which treatment fits your needs to your personal goal. For me it’s essential to pay attention to the performer’s key goal: the quality of there performance. Several methods are performance based and ideal for the performer to work on by him/herself or with a teacher/coach.

                                                                                                                11  Psychological  treatment  of  musical  performance  anxiety:  Curent  status  and  future   directions  by  Anne  M.McGinnis  and  Leonard  S.  Milling  (2005)    


Brains Before I start with giving an overview of the performance based-approach, I would like first to show the function of the brains and two theories about the focus necessary to give the ultimate performance. I’ll describe the model by sport psychologist Robert Nideffer in his book: psyched to win. Secondly ‘the circles’ invented by H.Eberspächer and adapted by Wieke Karsten. The brain can be split into three areas. 1.) the instinctive 2) the emotional 3) the cognitive brain.

1) The first area in the brain is called the brainstem. It controls your instincts, reflexes, and elementary brain functions (like breathing and heart-rate). 2) The second part of the brain is called limbic system. It creates our emotions like: joy, sadness, anger, enjoyment, jealousy etc. Emotional experiences that happen frequently are stored in this area. Having a great experience on stage will be remembered. Also the repeated bad experiences… 3) The third area is called the cerebral cortex and allows people to develop self reflexion and the possibility to choose appropriate behavior. It coordinates the activity in the emotional part and makes sure we can separate our emotions and thoughts. Consciousness is part of this area. There is continuously interaction between the three parts. However it isn’t always harmonious interplay. Every part can take over control. Control of the first area: we react instinctively, without overseeing the consequences. Control of the second area: we react impulsive and led by emotions, without knowing the influences from our emotions.



Control of the third area: possibility to control our emotions. We can get stuck in the windmills of our mind. Every experience will be stored temporarily. A core in the second area (amygdala) connects every experience to an emotion. If the first area senses danger, cortisol (an hormone) will encourage amygdala to connect this danger to a very strong emotion so it will be stored forever. 12 Going on stage is linked to a dangerous situation. Our body will react very strong. Increased Heart rate, sweaty hands, cold hands etc. This reaction is called FFF (fight, flight, fright). 13 To deal with this reaction is a key to the ultimate performance.

                                                                                                                12  Podiumangst  by  Citroen/van  der  Loo  p.  162   13  gewoon  spannend:  column  by  wieke  karsten    


Model of R. Nideffer: Robert Nideffer is a sport psychologist who developed a model (1976) for athletes to control the focus to create a peak performance. It’s been shown that optimal performance can be facilitated through focus and concentration. What does it mean to be focused? Concentration is the ability to direct one’s full attention to appropriate cues and stay focused on task in the present instead of being controlled by irrelevant external (i.e. crowd, game conditions, etc.) or internal (i.e. thoughts, emotions, physiological activity, etc.) stimuli. During any given competition there are numerous irrelevant cues that surround players and directing their attention through their own efforts will enable them to perform to their potential.

The four types of attentional focus

Broad-internal focus (left bottom) Think, plan and analyze Broad-external focus (left top) Balance the situation Narrow- internal focus (right bottom) Rehearse a performance before you actually engage in it. Narrow-external focus (right top) The Focus when you attempt to perform.



In addition to maintaining focus, athletes must effectively shift attention during performance. There are four different types of attentional focus to shift from: broad-external, broad-internal, narrow-external, and narrow-internal. A broad attentional focus allows a person to perceive several occurrences simultaneously while a narrow attentional focus occurs when you respond to only one or two cues. In addition, an external focus directs attention outward to an object while internal attentional focus is directed inward to thoughts and feelings. Athletes go through each of these four attentional styles multiple times in executing a golf shot for example. However, under stress and pressure, we tend to skip some of these styles leading to poor performance. In summary, an athlete can benefit from increased awareness regarding focus and concentration in every aspect of their performance whether it’s pre-, during-, or post-game.14 Mental sport coaches are experienced to help the athletes to be aware which focus they need at what time. For musicians it’s the same. We need to know what our focus is at which part in the music. Practicing, help from our teachers or even a mental coach like Martine van der Loo can help us.

                                                                                                                14  Psyche  to  win  by  R.  Nideffer    


Circles: Hans Eberspächer is a German sport psychologist (1943). He invented the Circles which explain where the focus goes at the time they have to perform. If the focus is on the task, the athlete will perform his best.

1= me and my task (to observe, decide, execution) 2= direct distractions (temperature, colleagues, circumstances) 3= is-supposed to be (comparison) 4= to succeed/to fail 5= consequences from succeeding/failing 6= live question (what am I doing here?) Wieke Karsten has translated this model for athletes to musicians.15 1= To be in the moment. You listen, feel, hear, experience and action: No talking in the mind. 2= Having small thoughts: relax thumb, wider vibrato, and music-focused thoughts. 3= Thoughts that start judging: oh no, wrong note, oh god difficult passage, stupid! 4= Circumstances interrupt our focus: oh no, they are looking at me! They look bored! They think I’m bad! 5= Occupied by past and future: God this piece is very simple, I should be playing much harder repertoire, I’m already in my 4th year! I’ll never get a job. 6= I wish I was not here on stage. When you practice it’s very important to realize in which circle you are. Effective practice should exclude circle 3 and further. Circle 2 is necessary during practice but doing this you have to keep your instrument down for 3 seconds.16                                                                                                                 15  Wieke  Karsten:  column  Circel  1    


Performance based approach After having gained some more information about the brains and needed focus for a great performance, I would like to discuss the approach discussed by Dianne Kenny and Liesbeth/Citroen that can help the musician to obtain a nicer performance experience. Behavioral model of performance enhancement The goal is to transfer the skills learnt during preparation to the actual performance. Suinn’s proposed techniques are packaged into an Anxiety Management Training (AMT). Resource is to learn the use of relaxation under conditions of arousal in conjunction with cognitive restructuring to deal with problematic thoughts. This approach addresses at the same time skill acquisition and anxiety. This approach has a maximal effect on the transfer from the practice room to the stage, because not only are the skills learnt to automaticity, but the emotional responses attached to those skills are embedded in the skill itself (Kenny 2005) Example Once you’re anxious, it actually affects the tension in your muscles. A lot of my training has been in learning how to reverse the muscle response to anxiety. If I’m playing some very complex work, the audience often says: ‘ Oh you looked so relaxed’. The reason is that I’m consciously ‘jelly fishing’ my muscles in order to do it, because it makes it so much easier to do it…if my focus cuts out, the tendency is to panic so the muscles seize up but mine don’t tend to for more than a micro second because my natural response to release the muscle kicks in. So in fact, when I’m more anxious, I’m constantly ‘jelly fishing’ because that’s what I’ve trained myself to do; because that’s the easiest way to get back my focus and calm. Individual zones of optimal functioning (IZOF) model Excitement is some kind of anxiety that is expressed positively. Anxiety supplies essential creative energy….and that, in stead of running away from anxiety, it is wisest to ‘move through it’, achieving a measure of self-realization in the process (Reubart, 1985). Hanin (2000) has developed a model, IZOF, and an IZOF emotion-profiling assessment protocol that personalizes the application of the model. The goal of this process is to assist athletes (musicians) to identify 1) their individual relevant emotions during performance 2) which emotions are most associated with their best and worst performances 3) the relative intensity of these emotions as they affect performance. For example if anxiety is found to be intense during worst performances, a program to address anxiety is devised that covers skills such as attentional control, cognitive restructuring, deep breathing, relaxation, and the use of energizing verbal cues. Goal setting: Goal setting theory states that the setting of specific challenging goals enhances performance. Two key factors include the nature of the goal chosen and the person’s selfefficacy or confidence that the goal can be attained.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          16  Wieke  Karsetn:  column  3  seconden    


The trichomotomous theory (Lacaille, Whipple and Koestner 2005) is the only goal setting theory applied to athletes and musicians. The theory proposes two main types of goals: 1) Mastery goals 2) Performance goals. Mastery goals are about the development of the skills needed for the task. Performance goals are in 2 types a) Performance approach goals, which are directed toward the attainment of success b) Performance avoidance goals, whose aims are to avoid failure. Lacaille (2005) hypothesized that a focus on performance goals might not be helpful to musicians because of the high prevalence and frequency of performance anxiety in that profession. They speculated that non-achievement goals such as the intrinsic enjoyment of the music and being absorbed by the musical experience might be more helpful to musicians. Practice It is very important to have your goals very clear in your head when you practice. Performers need to imagine how they would like the work to sound in the acoustic of the performance venue and for the particular audience for whom it will be performed (Fortune 2007). There is an evident link between inadequate practice and music performance anxiety.       Martine  van  der  Loo  developed  Task  Concentration  Training.   The  goal  is  to  break  the  excessive  attention  brought  to  your  physical  reactions,  negative   thoughts  and  fearful  feelings  by  stressful  situations,  like  a  concert.  During  a  concert  your   concentration  should  be  focused  on  the  task.  Very  often  the  focus  is  drawn  to  intern   thoughts  and  feelings  or  to  extern  thoughts  like  what’s  going  on  in  the  concert  hall.  Both   are  unwanted  distractions.     To  be  able  to  control  your  thoughts  it’s  necessary  to  know  what  you  focus  on  during   playing.   1. Start  with  analysing  your  thoughts  while  practising.  Try  to  figure  out  a  certain   patron  that  apparently  fits  your  concentration  habit.   2. Does  the  environment  quickly  distract  you?  Or  are  you  more  distracted  by   internal  thoughts  and  feelings?   3. Train  to  focus  to  the  task  by  choosing  a  musical  aspect  you  need  to  follow  like:     phrases,  vibrato,  your  fellow-­‐musicians,  your  breath,  rhythm  etc.   4. To  train  the  focus  to  the  task,  it’s  best  to  choose  a  different  focus  of  attention   every  5  minutes.   5.  You  will  have  to  notice  when  your  focus  flows  away.  You  will  have  to  train  to   refocus.     6. Finally  you  will  play  the  whole  piece  with  a  wider  focus.  You’ll  notice  which   points  will  need  more  attention.   7. Finally  on  stage  you’ve  to  let  go.    Have  faith  and  stay  focused  to  what’s  happening   in  the  moment.   8. If  this  isn’t  possible  because  of  fear:    focus  your  attention  to  one  aspect.  For   example-­‐  make  contact  with  your  fellow  musicians.     Unifying model of psychological preparations for peak performance What do we, as musicians need to be aware of before a performance? Hardy, Jones and Gould (1996) developed a model with five components:  


1) Fundamental: confidence, motivation and aspiration, goal orientation (the task versus your ego) 2) Psychological skills and strategies: goal setting, imagery and pre-performance routines 3) Adversity coping skills and strategies: realistic appraisal, social support, recovery strategies, refocusing 4) Ideal performance state: finding the optimal levels for emotions, cognitions and arousal 5) Environment: physical, social, organizational, situational Examples: 1) Make sure your goal is positive: To make music. Feel confident about how you feel the music and trust yourself that you can give this to the audience. This is your motivation and ambition. Don’t be ego focused by for example focusing on playing perfect. 2) Let’s say: your goal is to make music: Imagine every emotion with every passage in the music. Know what you feel and what the audience should feel. Practice this. 3) Know that no one is perfect. Realize that you will make mistakes. This is oke! Know that not every performance is the same. Accept it! 4) Practice your attitude when playing the piece. Every passage has it’s own character and feeling, Remember it. 5) Physical: health and fitness, properly warmth up, properly rested Social: social support Organizational: quality of practice, Situational: concert hall, audience, accommodation, time zones Pre-performance routines As stated in the unifying model; it’s necessary to be mentally prepared in every possible way. To be mentally strong you have to be confident with yourself. This is a game played in the mind. Negative self-talk occurs many times when arousal appears. Negative self-talk should be interrupted by you. Teach yourself to turn the negative thoughts in something more positive. Make the negative thoughts more useful!17 On stage a musician is always influenced by the environment and there own movements to aid their performance. Once arousal or somatic (body) / cognitive(psychological) anxiety increases, the range of cues to which one can attend reduces (Eastbrook, 1959). Reduction in the use of appropriate cues will result in deterioration in performance quality. This process is called perceptual narrowing (Kahneman, 1973). High cognitive anxiety can result in irrelevant thoughts (negative self-talk, focus on audience reactions). These thoughts interfere with the attention needed to meet the challenges of the task. Visiting the venue and practicing in the performance setting may be helpful to performers. Integrating performance-setting cues into performance preparation reduces the demands on attention on the day of the performance. Stepahnie McCallum, an eminent Australian pianist, described the elements required for the preparation and lead-up to a major solo recital.                                                                                                                 17  Podiumangst  by  Citroen/van  der  Loo  p.  151    


..The tightrope that is a full-length memorized recital. That’s a tightrope for any-one, it doesn’t matter if you’re Richter, or Pavarotti and you’ve done it 5.000 times. It is a very big outpouring of concentrated intellectual and creative energy. It Takes a build-up of preparation, much like a sporting event, you have to peak at the right time. And you have to arrive on the stage in a condition where you’re able to shed the physical symptoms of the adrenaline rush, but have the residue of concentration, very unusual high levels of concentration, which make you feel as though you are in a flow state where you’re carried along by your brain. So it’s partially a physical re-enactment of learned positions controlled by a creative impulse, which is held hostage to absolute concentration. If your concentration goes, the creative impulse is destroyed because the panic of retaining the physical movements then becomes the major project. So one’s goal is to reach a state of preparation where, when you’re in this state of concentration, you don’t have cut-outs that is, a serious loss of concentration. It’s a mental state of focus, which is like sitting someone down and you’re going to tell them a story, and you have the story in your head. You know what it is you want to talk about. You’re creating the story as you say it by the sentences that you construct and so on. You’re trying to make an impression on the other person with the story, so you’re emphasizing some things; you’re considering the order in which the things come. It’s a bit like that except that it is an infinitely more complex task than that because you’re regurgitating an existing phenomenon, another’s creation. Stephanie emphasizes to 1) Prepare the physical movements combined with your creative impulse 2) Focus on this-> this will prevent your concentration drop, which in all cases need to be avoided; It’s hard to get back to this focus. The new focus will be artificial…(retaining the physical movements without the creative impulse…) The role of imagery in performance preparation/mental practice In music performance, motor imagery associated with simultaneous technical and emotional input can help to embed information securely in the memory. Introducing a more imaginative approach into performance practice has potential benefits for both motivation and memory retention (Holmes, 2005). Imagery may also assist less confident performers achieve heightened mental focus and a clearer perception of ‘the perfect performance’, which may facilitate enhanced performance (Hall, 1995;Moritz et al., 1996). Imagery may also enhance emotional connection with the music in performance (Peterson, 2000) or the auditory, visual and proprioceptive sense required for optimum technical function (Dunbar-Wells, 1999). Pre-performance imagery may assist in focusing the mind on a thought or sensation that the performer associates with confidence. Others focus on the breath to calm anxiety and reduce automatic stress-related responses. These strategies serve simultaneously to distract the performer from the inner monologue of self-doubting and catastrophizing thoughts that can impair a performance (Liston et al., 2003; Zinn, McCain, & Zinn, 2000). In sports mental preparation already is an important part of their routine. They use: competition simulation, mental practice, goal setting, emotion control, behavioral routines, specific technical strategies, attentional strategies, reaction to mistakes, and postcompetition self-assessment (Bertollo, Salterelli, & Robazza, 2009). If I would translate this to mental preparation for musicians it would be:



Concert try-out, mental practice, goal setting (for example: playing the piece with the emotions that for you fit the piece), emotion control ( keep your head cool), behavioral routines ( know what your body language will give to the audience, practice it), know your motor skills, know what to focus during playing, know that mistakes always happen, evaluate your performance afterwards with a positive attitude (don’t call yourself ever the worst musician. Remember some mistakes to work on. Remember also the good parts of the performance). Martine van der loo and Liesbeth Citroen developed some very useful exercises to train your imagery practice. I’ll explain 3 exercises that I found very useful. 1. Visualization If you visualize a concert, there are 2 possibilities: -­‐ Extern visualizations: You see yourself from the audience playing -­‐ Intern visualization: You’re standing on stage and experience your playing Athletes use visualization training all the time. Before they actually run the race, they already experienced every movement and emotion a hundred times. With extern visualization you can correct more easily your skills, since you take distance from your emotions. With the intern visualization you pay more attention to your physical sensations and feelings that come with your skills. 2. Pretend to be someone else -­‐ What can make you mentally stronger is to give you the sensation of being someone who you think to be the best. -­‐ Imagine this person playing the piece, you have to play -­‐ Visualize and Analyze this person extern (you’re sitting in the hall) -­‐ Visualize that it’s you playing. What are the sensations? How does it feel to be this person? What’s changing? -­‐ Sometimes you can also take yourself as model from a concert you had an ultimate performance experience. 3. Choose the key When you’re very nervous on stage and you know it’s necessary to get your brains focused to the music you can choose a thought that brings you back to a more confident feeling that you recognize from your practice. -­‐ -­‐

-­‐ -­‐


Choose the key (it can be something physical, or something mental. For example: focus your attention to your right shoulder to relax it. Or focus your attention to an image of someone you love. Choose the condition you need (very confident). You can recognize this feeling by thinking about your model, or to take the attitude from someone with a lot of confidence, or by saying something powerful to yourself like: Go! Here I am! Don’t mind! Every time you make this key movement or think about your loved one, you’ll connect it automatically to the condition you need. Practice this when you’re confident and relaxed. It’s the best way to program it into your system. 18  

Survey: Since I’ve realized myself that my focus on stage is not always in the music like I want to, I was wondering what my colleagues experience when they are on stage and before stage. I’ve asked 50 colleagues the following questions:

-­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐

What’s going on in your thoughts when you’re performing on stage? Are you thinking about more than one thing? Where is your focus when you have a good performance? Where is your focus when you’re not having a good performance? What do you think about the hour before you go on stage? What does your body feel like before you go on stage? Is there a relation between your pre/feeling and thoughts and a good/bad performance? -­‐ What do you do when your focus on stage is not where it should be? If I would answer these questions myself: -­‐ It depends, some parts during the concert I’m feeling the music and being able to react to what I hear. Other parts I start thinking about if the audience heard the notes that were out of tune or I think that I’m feeling tired. -­‐ Yes, my concentrations shifts quite a lot from internal to external thoughts -­‐ Music -­‐ Audience, or the things that could have gone better -­‐ I’m making myself ready for enjoyment -­‐ A snake turning in my stomach, high heart-rate -­‐ Yes definitely. It has a lot to do with confidence -­‐ I sing the music. If I compare my answers to my colleagues I have to say that I’ve seen very similar answers. -­‐

-­‐ -­‐ -­‐ -­‐


This varies a bit. Some colleagues are able to just follow the music, but many are also thinking about what the teacher said, or about ‘stupid things’ like the lights in the hall, or about mistakes, audience some don’t think about anything: they play automatically, which is not in the music. Some give themselves comments all the time: relax your body, follow the phrase, and think ahead. Yes people shift with their thoughts during the performance, which probably is normal since the brain can’t focus intensively for a very long time. The main goal is to refocus and to skip the irrelevant thoughts. Following the music, in the sound, phrasing, self confidence, listening to the sound in the hall Thinking about the opinion of the audience, thinking you want to leave, failing, panicking about phrases that are about to come Some are very relaxed and visualize the concert, keeping up the positive mood, others are stressed and easily distracted, most of them don’t play too much before the performance, but try to stay calm.


-­‐ -­‐

It depends very much. It doesn’t seem to always be the same on stage, so bad thinking before doesn’t always imply a bad performance Some people stay negative and want to leave the stage; others are able to refocus to the music by listening to other musicians.

Reading the answers from my colleagues somehow gave me the confirmation I already knew. It is difficult to control our focus and our thoughts. I’m glad to see that some of my colleagues are aware and being able to deal with it.



Experiences   In  my  research  I  have  shown  exercises  and  descriptions  of  methods  to  help  a  musician   become  stronger  on  stage,  but  are  these  exercises  and  methods  really  working?         • Behavioral model of performance enhancement (with coach) • Individual zones of optimal functioning (IZOF) model (with coach) • Goal setting • Practice/ Task Concentration Technique • Unifying model of psychological preparations for peak performance/ Preperformance routine • Imagery First I’ve practiced these exercises myself, to see if I could improve my focus on stage with having the exercises in my preparation and on stage. Secondly I will show the methods that I haven’t mentioned in my research to show the choice I’ve made and to explain why I’ve made this choice. Finally I have discussed these exercises with my colleagues during the master circle at the royal conservatoire of The Hague. Behavioral model of performance enhancement + individual zones of optimal functioning (IZOF) model. Since  I  started  my  performance  based-­‐approach  with  explaining  the  methods  of  the   behavioural  model  and  IZOF  model  I  want  to  add  now  that  these  exercises  are  not  for   individual  use.  With  a  coach  you  have  to  analyse  yourself  and  the  coach,  who  is  trained,   develops  a  schedule  to  address  the  best  solutions.    I  mentioned  these  models  since  they   make  logical  sense  to  me.         Diary  of  my  performances.     -­‐  1e  try-­‐out  competition  program.       Exercise:  Goal  setting  and  task  concentration  training.     My  goal  was:  prove  that  I  studied  well  and  playing  the  pieces  in  tune  and  perfect.     Like  a  cd  recording.     Result:  I  was  very  nervous.  When  I  was  in  the  hall  I  recognised  people  who  I  knew  were   very  critical.  Consequence:  No  attention  to  music,  very  stressed  playing,  automatic   playing.  Halfway  the  try-­‐out  I  could  refocus  by  forcing  myself  to  listen  to  myself  in  the   hall.  It  was  the  task  concentration  training  that  saved  me….conclusion:  choosing  the   right  goal  is  incredibly  important.     I  want  to  add  that  when  I  practice  the  tct,  I  found  it  difficult  in  the  beginning  to  keep  one   focus  for  5  minutes.  It’s  quite  long….  I  think  it’s  better  to  start  with  1  min.  If  it  goes  well,   you  can  try  longer  and  build  your  focus  like  this.       -­‐  2nd  try-­‐out  for  competition:    


Exercise:  Goal  setting  and  choose  the  key  (imagery)     My  goal  was:  make  from  every  note  something  special     After  my  last  experience  I  knew  it  was  important  to  choose  a  different  goal.   The  day  before  I  didn’t  practice  very  much.  I  was  all  the  time  playing  through  the  pieces   in  my  mind  and  I  knew  exactly  which  emotion  I  wanted  to  play  with  every  passage.  Just   before  going  on  stage  I  told  myself:  Be  proud,  you’re  very  musical  just  give  emotions!   Don’t  think  just  do  it!   The  first  page  of  the  very  first  piece  I  had  to  fight  a  little  bit  in  myself  to  be  able  to  feel   and  give  the  music:  I  realised  that  the  concert  had  started  and  had  to  get  used  to  the   knowledge  that  ‘this  was  the  moment’.  Then  I  realised  the  goal  I  made  myself  and  I  had  a   wonderful  time  on  stage.  At  some  points  I  had  to  refocus,  because  there  were  technically   demanding  passages,  which  I  was  afraid  of.  I  was  able  to  refocus  by  using  the  physical   key:    relaxing  the  stomach  and  feel  the  space  in  the  lower  back  (I  got  this  from  my   teacher  Pavel  Vernikov).  During  practising  I’ve  always  used  this  movement  in   combination  with  a  very  confident  and  powerful  feeling.  On  stage  this  feeling  came  back   right  after  I’ve  made  my  physical  movement.  Maybe  this  physical  movement  works  for   me  because  it  reminds  me  of  Pavel  Vernikov  who  gives  me  always  a  very  confident   feeling.     -­‐  Exam  orchestra  excerpts.     Exercise:  visualization  (imagery),  pretend  to  be  someone  else  (imagery)     I  had  a  very  good  preparation  the  morning  and  evening  in  advance:  taking  rest,  mental   preparation:  I  was  visualizing  myself  first  external  and  after  internal.       External:  I  pretended  I  was  sitting  in  the  hall  and  seeing  somebody  else  on  stage   (another  student  I  really  admire)  playing  my  pieces.  This  inspired  me  because  I  could   hear  and  see  how  I  wanted  it  to  be!  After  I  visualized  myself  on  stage,  but  I  used  the   internal  visualization.  It  was  harder  for  me  to  see  myself  external,  because  I  started  right   away  with  playing  through  all  the  pieces  in  my  mind  and  analysing  what  my  body  feels   like  in  every  passage  and  knowing  what  to  follow  musically...  So  for  me  it’s  better  to  take   the  model  for  external  visualization  and  copying  the  model  after  from  the  inside.   Doing  this  gave  me  the  feeling  of  total  control  and  relaxation.  Even  though  I  was  nervous   before  going  on  stage:  I  knew  what  to  do.  I  played  very  well.     So  I  have  used,  goal  setting  theory,  task  concentration  training    and  imagery   (visualization,  pretend  to  be  someone  else,  and  choose  the  key).           What  is  left  to  be  experienced  is:     Unifying  model  of  psychological  preparations  for  peak  performance       1) Fundamental: confidence, motivation and aspiration, goal orientation (the task versus your ego) 2) Psychological skills and strategies: goal setting, imagery and pre-performance routines 3) Adversity coping skills and strategies: realistic appraisal, social support, recovery strategies, refocusing



4) Ideal performance state: finding the optimal levels for emotions, cognitions and arousal 5) Environment: physical, social, organizational, situational These  5  points  need  to  be  built  during  time  and  with  help  from  others.  Confidence  is  the   hardest  to  achieve  by  yourself.  I’m  quite  lucky  that  I’ve  always  had  people  around  me   who  have  told  me  I  have  something  special  and  it’s  worth  going  for  it.  I’ve  met  some   colleagues  who  were  not  lucky  and  didn’t  have  social  support  around  them.  They  never   won  competitions  and  their  teachers  didn’t  give  this  personal  input  which  I  consider  to   be  extremely  important  for  the  mental  preparation.    If  you  would  know  yourself  exactly   what  is  your  strong  point  and  why  you  want  to  make  music  and  the  environment   supports  you  then  it’s  just  you  who  needs  to  deal  with  the  psychological  skills  and  the   concert  circumstances  and  finding  the  optimal  level  of  arousal.     The  psychological  skills  can  be  solved  with  the  exercises.  The  concert  circumstances  and   finding  the  optimal  level  of  arousal  are  linked  to  the  psychological  skills.  Mental   preparation  can  prepare  you.     Exercises  I  didn’t  choose:     Alexander  Technique   Alexander  Technique  is  a  method  that  focuses  on  the  right  body  posture  concerning  the   head,  neck  and  the  back.  Results  might  be  that  physically  the  musician  experiences  a   relaxed  feeling  in  the  body  and  it  can  work  as  a  distraction  technique:  the  musician  is   able  to  distract  the  fearful  thoughts  by  focusing  on  the  right  posture..   I  have  had  one  year  of  alexander  technique.  Privately  and  in  the  conservatory  during  my   bachelor.  I  tried  to  create  the  right  posture  but  the  problem  for  me  was  that  the  teachers   were  not  musicians.  So  they  expected  you  to  have  the  posture  with  minimal  movement.   Being  a  musician  means  to  be  in  the  music.  For  me  it’s  easier  to  be  in  the  music  with  all   my  body.  Keeping  my  body  relaxed  and  quiet  resulted  in  playing  very  distant…  for  me  it   didn’t  work  to  be  put  in  the  ‘right  position’.  A  relaxed  body  of  course  is  very  important   but  for  me  a  relaxed  body  doesn’t  mean  to  stand  like  a  robot….     Beta-­blockers   A  Beta-­‐blocker  is  a  medicine  that  controls  your  body  in  a  very  stressful  situation.  The   symptoms  like  trembling,  sweaty  hands  and  getting  a  dry  mouth  disappear.    If  you’re  a   confident  musician  who  only  suffers  extremely  from  these  body  reactions  when  arousal   appears,  it  might  feel  like  a  good  solution.    Results  have  shown  that  musicians   experiencing  psychological  effects;  such  as  a  low  self-­‐esteem  have  no  benefit  from  the   beta-­‐blockers.    I  tried  once  a  beta-­‐blocker.  The  result  was  that  I  felt  extremely  slow  and  calm  and   emotionless.    I  played  very  boring.   I  don’t  want  to  advise  musicians  to  take  beta-­‐blockers  since  I  believe  in  the  power  of   music.    If  a  musician  needs  to  control  his  body  during  a  performance  I  believe  that  focus   on  music  should  be  the  medicine.        Jacobson   The  method  of  Jacobson  learns  to  relax  the  muscles,  which  is  necessary  when  arousal   appears..  Very  systematically  they  teach  you  all  your  different  groups  of  muscles.  The  



method  takes  20-­‐25  minutes.  You  have  to  do  these  exercises  every  day.  With  the   assistance  of  a  cd  you  hear  a  voice  very  slowly  telling  you  to  which  muscle  you  need  to   pay  attention  to  and  what  to  experience.  They  use  text  like:  make  sure  you  sit   comfortable..  Let  go  all  the  muscles.  Now  lift  your  eyebrow,  more  and  more….  Relax  now   and  make  the  wrinkles  disappear.  Experience  the  wrinkles  disappearing  from  your   forehead  when  you  relax..  now  furrow  your  forehead  etc…   I  believe  that  for  some  people  this  might  be  useful.  But  you  need  to  have  a  lot  of  patience   and  you  need  to  be  able  to  believe  the  voice  you  hear  on  the  cd.    It’s  comparable  with   yoga.  I  used  to  go  to  yoga  every  week  but  I  had  the  same  problem  as  with  the  cd:   The  level  of  dramatic  input  in  the  way  they  ask  you  to  experience  your  body.  It  sounds   too  vague  for  me….       Eastern  philosophies   Some  relaxation  –  techniques  use  ideas  from  the  eastern  philosophies.    To  relieve   tension  and  create  relaxed  muscles  they  use  exercises  with  hypnotic  symptoms.     Eastern  philosophies  are  very  close  to  the  spiritiual  believe.  Believe  that  your  spirit  is   independent  and  can  be  liberated  from  the  body,  which  improves  your  performance.   You  need  an  extremely  quiet  area  to  get  hypnotised  and  after  you  feel  very    lazy…  For   me  it’s  not  the  solution  to  feel  like  you’re  in  a  different  place  and  having  not  a  clear   control  over  yourself.  It’s    too  vague  and  I  prefer  to  stay  with  2  feet  on  the  ground.       Discussion  with  my  colleagues:       In  the  beginning  of  January  I’ve  had  a  discussion  during  the  master  circle.  I  had  shared   the  exercises  that  were  useful  for  me.  But  are  they  useful  for  everyone?     Imagery,  pretend  to  be  someone  else,  goal  setting  theory,  task  concentration  training   and  choose  the  key.         Pretend  to  be  someone  else  and  choose  the  key  didn’t  seem  to  be  appreciated.   To  pretend  to  be  someone  else  seemed  to  underestimate  your  own  talent  and  capacity.   Why  not  believing  in  yourself?  For  others  it  seemed  to  be  useful  since  they  don’t  feel   confident  themselves  and  with  pretending  to  be  a  powerful  confident  talented  person  it   could  help  them  to  feel  better.   Choosing  the  key  is  something  that  needs  good  practice.  The  most  students  thought  it   was  difficult  to  choose  a  key  which  is  strong  enough  to  go  back  to  the  confident  feeling   you  have  in  your  practise  room.  How  do  you  choose  this  key?   We  discussed  about  it  and  the  conclusion  is  that  for  everyone  confidence  gives  a  certain   physical  association.  For  some  student  it  was  the  feet  strongly  on  the  ground.  For   another  it  is  opening  the  chest.  Actually  no  one  wanted  to  use  an  image  to  use  as  key.  It’s   because  it  mostly  isn’t  linked  to  a  confidant  feeling.    And  a  picture  of  your  loved  one,   might  even  be  distracting…     For  some  colleagues  if  you  start  to  speak  about  meditations  as  part  of  imagery  they   associate  it  with  ‘spiritual  work’,  which  is  not  suitable  for  every  person.  As  I  mentioned   before,  to  stay  with  2  feet  on  the  ground  can  create  for  some  people  more  confidence.  



Meditation  as  part  of  imagery  means  that  you  take  your  time  to  really  experience  the   concert  that’s  coming.  It’s  very  concrete  since  you  have  to  decide  what  to  focus  on  and   how  to  use  your  body.     The  goal  setting  theory  and  task  concentration  training  (tct)  are  very  concrete  and  clear   to  use.    Only  one  colleague  thought  about  the  tct  that  it  might  be  difficult  to  practice  it   since  you  have  to  be  very  strict  with  yourself.  If  you  choose  a  focus  for  5  min.  you  really   have  to  make  sure  you’re  not  thinking  about  anything  else.  Only  then  you  are  able  to   improve  your  concentration.        



Conclusion: I started this research to obtain the ultimate performance. First of course I needed to clarify what is the ultimate performance. Psychologist Csikszentmihalyi helped me realize it’s this being absorbed by music, loss of time awareness that he calls the flow state that every musician wishes to experience. To create a flow is something very difficult ‘to do’. It’s something that needs to happen. It’s interesting to see that even though on stage you’re still nervous, by practicing to think about the right things, you can manage to enjoy your sound and feel the music yourself. For me this is in a concert a wonderful thing to hold on to. You may still think about your focus and your needs to refocus when your attention draws away to irrelevant thoughts, but at least the enjoyment becomes a big part of your performance. After reading through my research I’ve realised I’ve gained so much more awareness how to create a nice experience for myself on stage. Recently I’ve given quite some recitals. I enjoyed it. There were moments my concentration went internal or external, but I was able to refocus. The performance-based approach taught me how to prepare mentally. Visualisation, determining the right goal, self-confidence by giving me the keywords before going on stage (you can do it! Here I am! Don’t mind), pretending to be someone else. Refocusing by putting attention to for example relaxing my stomach. People around me who have followed me the past years separately told me my way of playing has grown much more expressively and more free. Besides the exercises I’ve been able to use during practice and on stage, I gained more awareness about the function and consequences of the brain when arousal was activated. By this awareness you realize it’s something natural and nothing extraordinary. The FFF reaction is something pure instinctive, which is impossible to deny. I want to thank Martine van der Loo and Wieke Karsten for the time they reserved for me to talk about my research. Also of course my coaches Philip Curtis and Patrick van Deurzen and Kathryn Cok.



Bibliography Articles: Getting into the optimal performance state by R. Nideffer Psychological treatment of musical performance anxiety: Curent status and future directions by Anne M.McGinnis and Leonard S. Milling (2005) Performance degration under pressure in music: an examination of attentional processes: catherine y.wan and gail f. Huon (2005) columns: Wieke Karsten : Circel 1/3 seconden/gewoon spannend Books: Performance of music performance anxiety by Dianne Kenny Podiumangst by Liesbeth Citroen en Martine van der Loo Psyche to win by Robert Nideffer Website: