July 30, 2020 by

The Importance of Positive Self-Talk During Practice


It’s Saturday morning. You are finally getting in some quality practice time with your instrument after a long week. You open up your sheet music and prepare yourself to play your first note. Things are going smooth for the first few measures, and then you accidentally play a “d” instead of a “d#”. You keep going because it was a simple mistake, and then hit an even bigger roadblock. At this point you find yourself getting frustrated and losing desire to continue practicing. The way we talk to ourselves following this roadblock is very important.

First, you need to tell yourself that it is OKAY to make mistakes. Mistakes are steps towards success. The entire reason we practice in the first place is to improve our skills, our music, and our general musicality. If everything about the piece was perfect, then there wouldn’t be any need to practice in the first place.

It is always much easier to tell yourself the negative than the positive. It is important to focus on what is actually real, and not cognitive distortions. For example, saying “I am never going to get this passage right it’s too hard” is a false statement. It is not based on reality because, with practice, you will get it right. When you find yourself at a crossroads in your practice, instead of saying a negative though such as the one above, replace it with a realistic statement. For example, “with practice, I will get this right. It might take some time, but I will get there”.

For the student reading this, try your best to stop those negative thoughts by realizing that they are just false statements. They do nothing but bring you down. It will take time to replace those with positive and accurate thoughts about your practicing, but you WILL get there. Nothing is impossible as long as we practice.

For the teacher reading this, recognize the signs of negative self-talk in your students and give them positive encouragement. A frustrated student will not get anywhere, it will only lead to a breaking point in their practicing and as a musician. Some of these signs include: • Sighing constantly during lessons • Saying phrases such as “wait, ugh I messed up I can’t get this part” • Overthinking, if a student is pausing before the “hard part” and then messing up, they are telling themselves how they won’t get it. • They lack confidence

We want to encourage positive self-talk in our students from the very beginning of their musical journey if possible, or at least from the start of their time with you as a teacher. This skill will not only help them become a better musician, but also more confident in their daily lives.

Overall, the way we talk to ourselves is very important. Replace the false, negative thoughts with positive realistic ones. This will lead you down the path to success!