The Art of Practice: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart
By Madeline Bruser
Three Rivers Press
A highly personal, almost new-age approach to discovering joy and freedom in practicing, this book injects some highly valuable concepts of freedom and personal discovery into an all-too-often onerous process. The main idea is to transform the act of practicing into a creative activity rather than a mechanical one. It features a brief but helpful section on pre-practice stretching and yoga. There is some instrument-specific advice on improvement of mechanics and position to gain fluidity and balance. Sections on memorization and interpretation also have inspirational passages of transcendent rediscovery.
The Balanced Musician
By Leslie Sisterhen MacAllister
A comprehensive resource book focusing on a broad spectrum of approaches to the disciplines of music-making, originally developed in the field of sports psychology. Clear, well-researched and informative, this book lays out the historical background of behavioral/emotional training philosophies, including visualization, biofeedback, meditation, yoga/stretching, and many other topics. Well organized, with helpful chapter reviews of key concepts and vocabulary. An extensive bibliography is a fantastic encapsulation of the most current research and writings on associated ideas.
The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance and Wellness
By Gerald Klickstein
Oxford University Press
Along with its companion website MusiciansWay.com, this book by a former classical guitar professor offers practical advice on practice techniques and healthy approaches to performance. The author also develops a fairly comprehensive strategy for healing from and avoiding repetitive stress injury (RSI). Targeted towards a conservatory music student, avoidance of over-use, over-practice and improper warm-up and cool-down is emphasized. Includes helpful information on developing practice charts and action plans, stretching routines, and hearing protection.
Musician’s Yoga: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Inspiration
By Mia Olson
Written by a woodwind professor who is also a professional-level Kripalu Yoga Teacher, this book provides guidance on how to integrate yoga into your approaches to music-making and practice routines. This integration can help improve musicianship, support healthy posture and technique, heighten mental focus, improve phrasing, ease performance anxiety, and deepen musical expression.
The Hand Owner’s Manual
By Roy A. Meals, M.D.
Reflections on clinical hand issues from a hand surgeon of 30 years. Written in a casual style, loosely grouping hand injuries and syndromes into categories. Includes specific information on tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, focal dystonia, and basic treatment of burns, cuts, and nail issues.
Playing (Less) Hurt: An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians
By Janet Horvath
Hal Leonard Books
A fairly comprehensive, well organized resource for a variety of physical issues relating to music performance. Written in a highly subjective tone, this book includes some excellent sections on stretching, instrument modification, and hearing protection. Also included are helpful self-assessment charts for determining baseline pain, discomfort and anxiety levels. Excellent bibliography and resource guide.
How to Learn the Alexander Technique: A Manual for Students
By Barbara Conable and William Conable
While not specifically directed at musicians, this book makes an excellent companion to Barbara Conable’s What Every Musician… book (see above). More scholarly, organized and serious in tone, it describes the basic ideas of Alexander Technique. The drawings and descriptions lay out in precise detail the essence of the “Body Mapping” philosophy. Excellent sections on breathing mechanics and laryngeal structure for singers. A section on “common mapping errors” is very helpful.
What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body: The Practical Application of Body Mapping to Music Making
By Barbara Conable
Barbara Conable is the founder and director of “Andover Educators,” an off-shoot of the Alexander Technique, with specific emphasis on musician’s issues and the discipline known as “Body Mapping.” In essence, this postulates that our personal mental imagery of the structure, size, inter-relation and function of the bones and muscles in our body determines our actual movement. Therefore, identification and correction of “miss-mapping” can lead to almost instantaneous changes in function, resulting in fluid, balanced and free movement. While hard to accept, this writer can attest to the power of the approach. Really fantastic ideas about sitting, breathing, balance, hand and arm function. This spiral-bound book is exceedingly informal in tone, with a very basic instructional style.
Psychology of Performance
Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within
By Kenny Werner
Jamey Aebersold, pub.
Writing primarily to benefit improvising players, master jazz pianist Kenny Werner explores common personal obstacles faced by evolving musicians. He makes the case that, using mindful techniques, we can cast off the physical and mental restrictions we are too often inclined to place on ourselves. All musicians, indeed anyone aspiring to think creatively, can benefit from Werner’s insights and methods, and his witty style makes it a fun read.
Feel the Fear… And Do It Anyway
By Susan Jeffers
Jeffers discusses the crippling effects of fear in her personal life and explains how she formulated a course of action for conquering it. Her answers are simple, her course of action difficult only because it requires courage. She explains how fear is based on the uncertainty of change and the lack of positive self-image. She avoids psychological lingo, and includes many case studies about careers and changes in personal circumstances. Her message is reassuring: choices are not opportunities to make mistakes, but valid paths to growth, whichever path we take. She addresses the fundamental cause of fear: the belief that “I can’t handle it!” Whatever your fear, here is your chance to push through it once and for all. With insight and humor, Dr. Jeffers shows you how to become powerful in the face of your fears – and enjoy the elation of living a creative, joyous, loving life.
Fight Your Fear and Win: Seven Skills for Performing Your Best Under Pressure – At Work, In Sports, On Stage
By Don Greene, Ph.D.
Don Greene, a renowned sports psychologist, West Point graduate and former Green Beret, teacher at the Juilliard School, and “stress” coach to top executives and entertainers, has spent decades studying fear and its effect on performance. In this book, Dr. Greene shares the proven techniques he has used with Olympic athletes, Grand Prix drives, professional skiers and golfers, the New World Symphony, Merrill Lynch traders, the San Diego S.W.A.T. team and singers at the Metropolitan Opera to help them perform their best under pressure. Dr. Greene discovered that there were certain commonalities in people’s responses to high-pressure situations. He found that by applying methods such as the centering technique, these same people could work through their fear and perform better than ever before. His simple twenty-one-day plan can make a profound difference in the way you approach challenging situations, and allow you to think more clearly and creatively under pressure.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
By David Allen
Veteran coach and management consultant David Allen shares the breakthrough methods for stress-free performance that he has introduced to tens of thousands of people across the country. Allen’s premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential. David Allen explains his system for organizing everything in our lives. In this way, a person can stay on top of every assignment, every project, every email and text message, every scrap of paper, every relationship; and in doing so, gain peace of mind, confidence and relaxation. Although intended for business people, the system is superb for students.
The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
By Timothy Galwey (forward by Pete Carroll)
Random House Trade Paperbacks
Written by a tennis pro for tennis players, this book introduces a program for overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning. The suggestions for practice and improvement are directly applicable to singers and instrumentalists. The method works on the premise that we have two selves within us: the Telling Self (Self 1) and the Doing Self (Self 2), and improving the dialog between the two selves by quieting Self 1 and trusting Self 2.
A Soprano on Her Head: Right-Side-Up Reflections on Life and Other Performances
By Eloise Ristad
Real People Press
Eloise Ristad deals here with complex problems which torment and cripple so many of our most creative and talented people, and she does so with compassion, wisdom, and wit. The problem of stage fright, for instance, is a suffering of epidemic proportions in our society, and involves modalities of thought and projections that rob spontaneity and enthusiasm in artistic performance. This book offers answers and methods for overcoming universal psychological blocks – methods that have not only been prove in her own studio, but which trace back through history to the oldest and wisest systems of understanding the integration of mind and body.
Playing Your Best When It Counts: Mental Skills for Musicians
By Dr. Bill Moore
Playing Your Best Consulting
Dr. Moore is a sports psychologist who has done extensive work with both athletes and musicians for more than two decades. This guide to high performance explores themes such as connecting with your passion, staying focused, mental skills inventories, self-trust, self-confidence, self-coaching, positive performance mindsets, self-leadership, emotional and spiritual renewal. Reflection questions and mental exercised are offered throughout the book to help apply the concepts presented.