Mental practice




Mental practice is an extensive area that offers techniques for many different practice issues.

Learn correctly from the outset

It's important that you learn a piece correctly from the outset. It's much easier to study the music carefully than to correct reading errors you'll first have to unlearn the old note or rhythm and then learn the new one. Old mistakes also have a habit of resurfacing when you're under pressure.



Conjuring up a mental image whilst playing is called visualisation. However, the term is misleading, as the word itself refers only to a visual image. A musician’s mental image naturally also includes an aural image of the piece being played, as well as a kinaesthetic aspect – a feeling of what is happening in your body as you play.

Learning by heart


Many musicians are afraid of misremembering a piece. Your motor memory may fail and, if you have no support coming on a conscious level, it will be difficult to keep going. Reading music and then visualising your own playing is an effective way of learning a piece by heart. The idea isn’t to get a photocopy of the notes in your mind, but rather to remember the intonation, chords, fingering, movements, excerpts and your feelings, etc. Each person will create a distinctive personal image, and so everyone should try to find their own ideal methods for visualisation.

Improving technique

Technique is a question of practising cooperation between your mind and muscles. You must first form a clear mental image of the movements to be performed. Only then can you begin correctly commanding your muscles. Outlining movements in your mind promotes the formation of nerve connections and clarifies technique.

Shaping music

Most people practice by singing a piece of music in their mind and thinking about the phrasing rather than searching for a musical solution solely through playing. You can build a good foundation for perceiving musical ideas by carefully familiarising yourself with notes and musical symbols, taking an appropriately analytical attitude, singing in your mind, listening, and seeking solutions through movements, playing and feelings.

Learning to perform

You can mentally prepare for performing by running through the upcoming situation in your mind. It's also important to plan your warm up and imagine what it will be like when you are waiting for your turn. You can also enhance your own picture of yourself as a musician by adding any desired qualities to your image and gradually learning to see yourself in a new light.



  1. Read carefully through the music that you're working on. Have you played the correct notes and rhythm? Have you paid attention to all the musical symbols? Have you a clear understanding of the other parts (piano/orchestra, chamber music parts)?
  2. Run through the piece you are practicing in your head at a slow tempo. Add an aural image of the piece, a kinaesthetic image of your movements and any other physical feelings to your mental picture. Also include a visual image of the notes or hand movements, or a combination of both. Gradually increase the tempo.

Think about how you will warm up for the concert and how waiting for your turn will feel. Imagine yourself on stage playing the piece. Look at the audience and create a positive image of it.