Piano Mindset

Three ways to improve both your practice and performance.

Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge, and I want to welcome you to episode number 12 of the confident improviser podcast. Today, we are going to be talking about piano mindset. And I’m going to share with you three ways that you can improve both your performance, and also your practice at the piano. Now, I just want to remind you that this podcast goes along with the competent improviser program, which you could find a jazz edge. If you want more information, and also replays, you can go back to the confident improviser.com. Alright, so let’s get into this piano mindset. And first of all, let’s let’s just figure out like, what is the definition of mindset? Well, if you go to Google the definition, it says, the established set of attitudes held by somebody, so whatever it is that you decide to believe in, that’s your mindset. Now, when I’m talking about mindset at the piano, how I like to describe it is what you decide to focus on. Alright, so where is your focus? And let me give you a couple of just fun, silly examples. All right. So if you get into a fight with a friend, right, just before you sit down to practice, well, where is your mindset going to be right, you’re going to be thinking about that conversation that you had. Or let’s say that you just scratched off a lottery ticket, and you just want a million dollars. And now you’re going to sit down and practice the piano, right? Where’s your mindset going to be, it’s probably going to be on that brand new Steinway grand piano that you’re going to buy, right. So wherever your mind is at, and whatever it is that you’re focusing on, that is going to be what is going to either help you or hinder you when it comes to practicing. And also performance. Right, so let’s dive in into three different examples.

First of all,

let’s talk about performance mindset. Now, one thing that I suggest that students do is before they actually sit and play a song, that they actually take a moment and just breathe, kind of hear the song a little bit in their head, maybe hum a few bars of it. And this is good for several different reasons. Number one, the the most practical reason is it helps you to establish the tempo, it’s so easy to start a song either too fast, or too slow. So by you sitting there for a second and just kind of, you know, humming the song, it just makes sure that you kind of have it, you know, at the right tempo. And a good suggestion is make sure that you know what the bridge is, as well, right. So if you’re if you’re doing like, eight misbehaving, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boom, right, so is the beginning of a misbehaving the bridges, dadda, dadda, dadda, dadda, dadda dadda, right. So if you start to sound off on badoo, badoo, badoo, badoo, did it really fast, and you get to the rich data, that might be too fast for you. So make sure that you go through the main sections of the song and just you know, what the tempo should be, so that you don’t get yourself into a trouble spot. The last thing you want to do is start a song at one tempo, and then have to change to a different tempo in the middle of the song, the audience will hear that every single time, right. And it’s very, very difficult to cover that up. So you really want to keep a nice steady tempo throughout the entire song. Of course, I’m generalizing as you get better, yes, you can change tempo, and all of that, but I’m talking about changing tempo, when you weren’t, you know, really thinking about changing tempo, right? The other thing that that little bit of pause before you start to play, what it does, it helps to set up the audience as well, when you have pause. Right? Do you see that pause that like kind of, like you start to fill in with your own mind, hey, what’s what’s going on? Why is there silence? You know, like, what’s he going to do? What’s he going to say? what’s he going to play? Right? So it kind of helps to build up a little bit of that drama, before you start to play. You also allow the audience time to kind of kind of chill a little bit before the next song, right? So if you just ended one song, and you’re going to play another song, kind of gives the audience a moment like to kind of rest their ears a little bit, right? So for instance, if I’m going to sit down like the song that I like to use in the site is my romance. It’s a great standard part of our step by step standards course. Right? So if I’m going to sit down, I’m gonna play the song. I’m just gonna jump right in.

Right, see, I just jumped right into it’s kind of sloppy and whatnot. Now imagine I do this. If you’re listening in the car, you’re going to hear some silence, right? But that silence will help to build a little bit of drama. So here I go.

Do you hear that

little bit, that little bit of a pause before I start to play just helps to set the mood. And I’m so happy to see so many students have been doing this and joining in on coaching and showing this and what a difference in their play, it sounds so much more relaxed, it sounds so much more controlled. So record yourself on video playing and try both ways, try just jumping right into a song, then take a minute, just kind of put your hands in your lap, look at the keys, or close your eyes. Use this as a time to just kind of relax the body, you know, kind of get prepared, like hum a few bars to the song, and then put your hands on the keys and then start to play. This isn’t like 60 seconds of pause. I’m really talking like maybe 10 to 15 seconds of pause. Alright, so that’s the first thing that your performance mindset. Now there are many other things in performance mindset as well. Like thinking about getting rid of all the mental garbage Oh, I can’t do it, you know, all of that negativity. That’s where you take a minute to breathe, and hey, look, it’s just it is what it is. Just play. We’re all human beings. We all make mistakes, it’s absolutely fine. Nobody’s going to get arrested or die, you know, for making a mistake at the piano. So just let it be right? just just just let it flow. Alright, Second thing, practice mindset. Okay, so like the example I was saying, you know, if you just want a million dollars in the lottery, and now you’re gonna, Okay, I’m gonna go sit and practice piano, you’re likely not going to be really focused on what you’re practicing, right? You’re going to be thinking about all the things that you want to, you’re going to want to buy with that million dollars. So when you’re getting ready to practice, it is helpful before you sit down to practice to have an idea of, Okay, this is what I’m going to do. This is what I want to try and achieve. This is my goal, okay, for this practice session. Remember, I don’t really like to use the word goal for long term stuff. I like the idea of focus instead. But goals are good for more short term, you know, things like a practice session, what is my goal here for today? What do I want to get down? You know, I want to go through and I want to do my rootless chord voicings, you know, my dominant seventh rootless chord voicings and all 12 keys, Okay, great, or I want to be able to practice, you know, four major scales, nice and smooth and slowly hands together, Okay, great, you know, or I want to be able to learn the first part of this song, whatever it is, coming into your practice session, with a clear idea of what it is that you want to get out of that practice session is going to dramatically change. You know, what you get out of that practice session, remember, garbage in, garbage out. So if you just kind of sit down, like, Okay, I’m just gonna sit down and practice. And then you know, a lot of times students will sit down, and what are they doing, you know, you sit down, and they start to play, you know, stuff that they already know, right? And then they, they get up from the practice session. And it’s like, they didn’t learn anything new, they just basically practice all the stuff that they already knew. That’s not a really good practice session isn’t that’s more of a repertoire, practice. So there are many different ways in which you can approach this. And it really depends on you, I’m not going to tell you, oh, write down notes beforehand, have a document on your computer, you don’t have a notebook, you do whatever works for you, right, if you want to write down some goals, you know, or an idea of what you want to get out of your practice session.


go ahead and do that sticky notes, that’s fine. Putting it you know, if you have an iPhone using Apple notes, putting it in there, using some other third party program that, you know, you could take notes in, you know,

Google Docs, whatever

it is that you want to do, or you can even just wing it, you know, but at least you take a minute, maybe 60 seconds, two minutes, and think about what do I want to get out of this practice session. Okay, it’s also a good time, while you’re doing that, to do a little bit of stretching and breathing, right, just kind of warming up the body, you know, like, you know, doing some nice, easy stretching, if you need some ideas for that. Take a look at my pain, tension and technique lesson, you know, but there are many different stretches that you can do, you know, stretching your neck as well back and forth, nice and easy. You know, like doing that kind of stuff, rolling the shoulders. You know, all of that stuff is just good to kind of warm up and loosen up the body. Before you sit in practice. Again, we’re not talking, you know, like, oh, you’re going to do a 20 minute yoga session nama stay. You know, yoga is great. I love all of that stuff. I’m not saying you have to do that. In order to sit down and have a good practice session, I’m saying take 60 seconds, maybe two minutes, do a little bit of light stretching. And while you’re doing that, just think about what you want to achieve at the piano. And remember, this is mindset, right? And if we go back to what mindset is, it’s like an establishment of attitudes that a person holds, right? So you can listen to all this and be like, that’s a bunch of hooey. Okay, well, now you have the mindset of like, you know, you disagree with with me, and absolutely fine. You know, it’s not going to be for everybody. But it’s what you decide to kind of have in your brain. If you think I’m full of it, then go ahead and do your own thing. And best of luck to you. If you agree with this, then try incorporating this into your practice. All right, the last one is theory mindset. There’s no question that there’s a lot of theory involved with playing the piano right now, if all you want to do is just sit down and play songs, and hey, just show me songs. I don’t care about the theory or anything like that. Okay, well, then fine, then what will happen is like, you’ll learn songs, but you’ll never truly understand what it is that you’re playing, right. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Okay, there really is nothing wrong with that. Me personally, I am the type of player where I want to know what’s going on, right? I don’t want to be beholden to somebody else to have to tell me what’s going on here. I want to know for myself, so theory, as I’ve said many times before, is really a great thing to practice away from the piano. So theory mindset means that when I am away from the piano, I’m still going to be thinking about piano theory, right. And when I think about that piano theory, and I start to visualize, you know, chords, scales, maybe even improvisation, melody, you know, progressions, that visualization process helps me get better at the piano. There was a study that was done, and I shared a TED talk on the jazz edge Facebook group, so you can take a look at that Ted Talk. But basically, there’s a study on basketball, basketball, free throw mindset. And if you do a Google search for that, I think the doctor was Dr. Babbitt, or something, Babcock, something like that. But you can find that study and read up on that. And basically, here’s the gist of the study. So there were basically two different groups or three groups, one group of basketball players just did nothing. Okay. So obviously, you kind of know what’s going to happen with them, right, they’re not going to improve, they did nothing, they just sat around and did nothing. That was the control group. The other group practice free throws for X amount of time, I don’t know how long it was, I think it was a few sessions of like, 20 minutes each or something. The other group practice free throws just in their mind, right. So they imagine themselves, they visualize themselves, practicing free throws, and then all three groups got together at the end. And they, you know, found out like, who improved and who didn’t? Well, obviously, the ones who did nothing sat around while they didn’t improve at all right, you kind of know, that’s gonna happen, the groups that actually practice the free throws, physically, you know, they

actually threw the ball, they improved. Sure. Okay, that makes sense. But what was most surprising is that the group that practice the free throws, just mentally, right, so they just visualize it in their head, then practicing that free throw, they also improved, right? So now, there’s so much that we don’t know about the brain. And nobody really has a complete, you know, handle on it and understanding on it. But we do kind of know, and, and science is telling us that that visualization process really does help. So if you’re away from the piano, this is the point of Guinea and if you’re away from the piano, and you’re thinking about chords, scales, progressions, melodies, whatever it is, whatever you’re practicing, away from the piano, believe it or not, it will help your performance. I have even seen classical musicians have their music, and they’re practicing it on like a desk. So there’s no piano there, they’re just tapping it, you know, on on a table, and then that helps as well. Moving your fingers like that. That’s another way you know, if you’re, you know, driving in the car, of course, all of this and do it safely. But you know, you could visually practice you know, chords, you know, with your hand just trying to get the position of those chords and starting to feel that position of those chords, practicing scales fingering of scale, so you could kind of do air piano, famous jazz pianist, bud Paul. The as I know the story, you can look it up for, you know, to see if it’s factual or not, but I think A story goes from what I heard, he was admitted to a hospital. And he was there for a while. And he practiced piano by visualizing a piano on the ceiling, and playing the piano on a ceiling. There was another saxophonist art pepper who actually was in jail. And he practiced saxophone, by using a tin can believe that, you know, like, isn’t that crazy, and I was actually writing his book, straight life, which that’s a crazy book and a crazy ride. It’s a very interesting book to read. But this is an idea that, that that visualization in that, you know, air, guitar, air piano, air saxophone really does help and really does work, right. So again, think about these three different ways of mindset, performance mindset, taking a little bit of a pause, kind of thinking about the performance before you actually start to perform. Practice mindset. Think about what you want to gain at that practice session. What’s

your goal? What do you want to get out of this practice session? And finally, theory, mindset. Think about theory, scales, chords progressions, think about that stuff away from the piano, right?

You could be going for a walk and be doing theory in your head, those three different types of mindset will really start to change your playing, you know, pretty dramatically. Right? And, of course, this you know, I’m talking about piano, but it’s really for any instrument, right. And if you have any questions, be sure to join me on Thursdays 1pm. Eastern, that’s when I do the confident improviser live training. All of those links are found right inside the members area, jazz edge calm. Thanks for joining me guys. And I’ll see you in the next podcast.

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Willie Myette

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