10 ways to . . . be more relaxed when you practice

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Relaxation is a vital part of becoming a better musician. If you are tense, nervous or otherwise distracted you will not play at your best. Here are some ways in which you can be more relaxed:

1. Close your eyes

Remove distractions from the outside world by simply closing your eyes. Taking a moment for this simple act is often enough to make you more relaxed.

2. Bring attention to tension

People often tell me they are tense or not relaxed. I ask them where and most are unable to tell me. Tension is not a general thing. It occurs in specific areas of the body. Take time to notice specifically where you are feeling tense and what is causing the tension. This may well lead you to your own answers.

3. Think positive thoughts

Tension and anxiety can be vicious circles. The more you think and analyse the more tense you become and in order to be more relaxed you think more and become more anxious. Break this pattern by only think positive thoughts as you play.

4. Ban tension

Mistakes become embedded during practice. Tension can also become normal if not ‘addressed’ early. As with mistakes you should stop the moment you notice tension, fix the problem and then carry on.

5. Focus on breathing

Tight muscles, increased adrenaline and muddled thoughts are side effects of nerves and tension. Focus on breathing evenly and deeply to cure these symptoms.

6. Relax your mind

Clear out all the clutter and fog that is clouding your thoughts. Trying to do too many things at once could be making you tense. Instead aim for relaxed clarity in thought.

7. Do some stretching

Ease the strain in those tight muscles by stepping away from your instrument for a few moments and doing some gentle stretching. Move the muscles in a gentle but different way to the one which you employ on your instrument.

8. Visualisation

Imagine in great detail which it would feel like to play without tension. Think about how your muscles would feel. What about your neck and shoulders? Consider this deeply and then move back to your instrument and try to replicate these feelings.

9. Outside music

Reducing tension is a subject which many disciplines have sought to address. You can therefore look to sources outside music for inspiration and ideas on relaxation. Areas like Yoga, Tai Chi and Alexander Technique are just a few that you might like to explore.

10. What’s the worst that can happen.

Tension is often brought about by fear. Fear of many different things but more often than not failure or embarrassment. Take a moment to put these into perspective. Greater musicians than you have made mistakes and will do so in future. Those that are close to you, friends and family, will not care if you goof up. They will be there for you whatever.

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