Notes on Polyphony Performance Psychology for Musicians

By Jane Magrath

The tendency of performers to play better during practice than during performance is attributed to the lack of separation between psychological practice skills and psychological performance skills (Magrath, 61). Practice skills include “the ability to self-monitor correctness,” “the ability to give self-instruction,” and “the ability to analyze cause and effect with regard to mistakes” (Magrath, 61).

The three psychological performance skills are courage, trust, and acceptance (Magrath, 61). Courage is defined as “the ability to direct your will to overcome internal and external negative forces”. Trust is categorized by “the ability to let go of conscious control over correctness”. Finally, acceptance is “the ability to see things as they are without judgement as to right or wrong” (Magrath, 61).

One tool that can be used by musical teachers is called a “mastery script” (Magrath, 61). Students describe the feeling of playing well using “very vivid and sensory-rich language” from start to finish, starting with warm-up and progressing through beginning, middle, and end of performing (Magrath, 61-62).

Trust, in the context of psychological performance skills, relies on the absence of expectations of performance. The player must have the ability to lose conscious control over correctness (Magrath, 62). This is very different from confidence, which is the expectation of a positive outcome (Magrath, 62).

Magrath, Jane. “Polyphony Performance Psychology for Musicians.” American Music Teacher, pp. 61–65.

Note: I am very uncertain about this citation. Within the manuscript, there is no publication information regarding the date of publication, volume number, or issue.

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