Health and wellbeing


It is very important for health and well being to plan physical practice and include proper recovery principles. Mental health means managing stress and anxiety and physical health means meeting the requirements of playing and recovering fully. For painless playing you will need to build up your strength to prepare the body for the demands of professional life. You need to plan so that your best physical condition times exactly with your performance. In this way you will feel confident coming into the performance. Because mental wellbeing correlates closely with physical wellbeing there are strategies you can implement such as breathing and relaxation skills that have both physical and mental benefits.  

Health (EJ)

To prevent injuries it is important to take care of your physical health by planning your practicing. Systematic planning is important for structuring your practice and for getting better results. During your student years in particular, it is worth dividing your practice into periods of time to foster development and enable your skills to develop as required. These can be periods of weeks or as much as a year in advance. Practice periods, for example, of a month can be linked to previous exercises and skills you have learnt. Healthy, varied practice that exercises your whole body guarantees sufficient general strength alongside your ‘instrument-specific’ practice. The advantages of planned practice enable optimal development, helps you to avoid burnout and injuries and produce better practicing results.

Ergonomics (EJ)

Your body is “the other half of your instrument” and you have both an “artistic musician” and a “biological musician” that work together in you. By the ‘biological musician’ we mean those mental and physical areas of competence, partly inherited and partly acquired,  that affect how a musician’s skills will develop and be maintained. Ergonomics is a very important part of your biology and practicing because it means finding your ideal body position and optimal technique. Musicians and vocalists should have a good awareness of their body, joints and muscles, and find a natural basic posture that causes the least strain. It is useful to know which muscles maintain correct posture and which muscles create the movement needed to produce the music. A good understanding of playing posture along with correct breathing technique can improve the sound quality and playing technique.  

Resting and breaks (EJ)

Only by resting your body can you recover from practicing. You also need to add rests into your daily practicing sessions. Hand surgeons say your hands should have a rest from playing every 30 minutes so that the nerves can recover. When you have rests you can stretch your body, walk around, practice in your mind so that you can still be focused on practicing if you want to. Remember that if you check your phone during a short break, it takes 20 minutes to get back into a focused state of mind again.

Mental wellbeing

Mental wellbeing (PA)

Managing stress and anxiety is essential for learning and performing. This covers a large subject field that includes human relationships and other aspects of life. Examples of these are feeling confident in yourself, managing your time and daring to express yourself musically. It is important to understand how failure impacts you and how you can find more joy in your playing.

Mindfulness (GM)

Mindfulness is simply the ability to bring your attention to the present moment and engage fully with whatever you are doing. In the first instance, it involves a decision to increase awareness and direct it at the ‘here and now’.  This decreases the amount of internal dialogue that deals with worries about the past and present and generally aims to increase the quality of any activity by consciously focusing on it. 

It is a skill that can be practiced and can have great benefits for stress relief as well as an increase in concentration and general well being. 

In terms of practice it can be applied by using a holistic approach to each task, in other words being aware of how your mind and body react to a particular challenge. Gathering information is the crucial first step. Next comes the decision to give full attention to that task (instead of wondering about an upcoming exam, for instance). 

Distraction is normal, but again, it can be more easily dealt with if your attention is gently drawn back to the present moment. A simple focus on breathing is often used as a key reminder. 

Physical wellbeing

Planning short-term practicing (EJ)

Short term practicing means practice time frames from one to three weeks. It takes your muscles about 24 hours on average to recover from a demanding practice session. This means that you need to plan your practicing in terms of alternating days of light and heavy sessions so that you don't strain yourself. On a lighter day, it is recommended that you include an easier practice session so that your body will keep strengthening your tired muscles. 

In practice it means that during a heavy day you could play through your program or play more loud things or just play longer. On a lighter day you could focus more on the details, take more short breaks or practice physically "lighter" repertoire or just practice for less time.

Planning long term practicing (EJ)

During the month-long time frame you can plan your practicing so that you increase the amount of practicing during the first three weeks. You can then have a “light week” (week 1), “medium week” (week 2) and a “heavy week” (week 3). It is important that every fourth week is always a recovery week so week 4 should be lighter than week 1 in terms of loading. This is because the tiny blood vessel networks that transport energy to your muscles need time to renew themselves every fourth week. If you want to improve your overall muscle condition, you have to give your body time to renew and repair its capillaries, otherwise constant heavy practicing could eventually lead to injury. 

Endurance and strength (EJ)

Correctly timed physical practicing and good recovery techniques will ensure that you build up strength and endurance in your playing. Your need to let your body build up strength by using the right kind of planning in your practice. 

Mental and physical wellbeing and flow (EN)

The experience of being in flow or ‘being in the zone’ is a positive, motivated and engaged state where the mind and body feel united in the present moment. In order to experience more of the joyful sensations of flow there are simple flow techniques you can use to remain on task, keep a positive outlook and maintain physical wellbeing. Through a focus on setting achievable goals and using fun, imaginative ideas you can keep up your motivation and energy levels. You can learn to maintain a present-centred focus by concentrating on the feeling of your body and the quality of sound you produce while playing. When you combine this with a fun, explorative approach to your music you can increase your ability to have more optimal experiences while practising and performing. The main thing to remember is that you always have a choice about what you do and how you do it, so you are always in control of your experience and therefore of your well being.

How to maintain wellbeing with flow techniques (EN)

If you notice you are getting bored and losing motivation whilst playing, you can raise the level of your interest by changing direction and/or focussing on a more challenging goal. If you are becoming frustrated, tense and experiencing negative self-talk, you can relax yourself by focussing on physical sensations and musical expression and asking yourself questions such as ‘Can I play more slowly so that I can feel more and express more?’ If you are becoming bored take some time to create a fun exercise or improvise around your repertoire to discover more about it. 

Check your levels of engagement and body feeling regularly by asking yourself non-judgemental, open questions such as ‘What can I feel?’ ‘Is it a relaxing feeling?’, ‘Am I just playing through my piece or exploring it?’ or ‘What does this music mean to me?’ In this way you can keep monitoring your experience and create a sense of fun in your practice to avoid repetitive, mechanistic practise that can overtire your muscles and make you feel stressed and frustrated. Remember to take regular breaks so that you do not exhaust yourself. If you feel mentally or physically tired, take a break, eat and drink or do some vitalising stretches straight away to wake up your body.  It is very important not to ‘push through’ or over-try when you are practising as that can exhaust you mentally and physically and demotivate you. Check this regularly by asking yourself ‘How much doing is in my playing - too much, too little or just right?’

Obviously we do need to put a certain amount of energy into our playing, however, for optimal wellbeing there is a fine balance between the energy input and output. For example, if you are putting in a lot of energy and not getting much result then you are working too hard on your task. Search for the overall balance that works for you by asking, ‘How am I feeling in my body now?’, ’How is my motivation level?’, ‘Am I over-trying in this passage?’  and ‘Am I enjoying myself?’. That way you can regularly check your body feeling and positivity levels and make adjustments from moment to moment as necessary to have a more positive experience. Remember that you can take control of your experience to have optimal physical and mental health for your music making, so keep aware, make positive decisions and take positive action to keep in optimum health!

Stress management

Stress management and Flow (EN)

A reduction of stress in the practise room can help to provide an antidote to the anxiety that many musicians experience leading up to and during performances. Musicians tend to put too much pressure on themselves by setting unrealistic goals and then practising with stress or alternatively, avoiding practise and feeling guilty. In the Flow Music Method, musicians are encouraged to experience positive feelings of engagement in their practice by setting small, achievable sensory and expressive sub goals that relate to the overall task at hand. By setting clear, realistic goals musicians can notice the feedback of improvement quickly and feel the resultant sensations of fulfilment and satisfaction. This feedback is important for the recognition of completion of tasks and maintaining a positive motivation for future tasks. Activities that support a healthy approach outside the practise room include imagining playing the music with all the details (called ‘vivid imagining’), singing the music expressively and using relaxation techniques and positive thinking. These activities can be used as needed to alleviate stress and bring you back into a state of relaxed joyfulness. Remember that you have the power to reduce excess stress through maintaining an awareness of how you feel mentally and physically and applying suitable strategies and antidotes.

Injury prevention

Injury prevention (EJ)

Research shows that more than half of all musicians experience injuries during their career. These types of injuries include tendonitis, problems with their neck, shoulders, back and arms and embouchure issues. If you focus in your practicing on recovery and optimal physical feelings, you will develop your strength and body for demanding playing. You will feel better and stronger all the time.  You can prevent injuries by planning your practicing well and developing your muscle strength. 

There are practicing methods for strengthening the muscles and preparing the body for physically demanding practice. For example, with weekly practicing you can vary your daily practicing with   heavier and lighter days so that you play your repertoire through on heavy days and work on the details and have more breaks on the lighter days. For long term practising you can play  ‘physically heavier’ repertoire on the heavy weeks and ‘physically lighter’ repertoire on the light weeks with a mixture of both in medium weeks. Remember that the recovery week is just a little easier than your light week of practicing.

Experiencing pain (EJ)

Never play with pain. Musicians can suffer sometimes from pain, numbness, stiffness, tiredness and muscle spasms and shaking. Make sure you react to any symptoms by resting and look for help if the symptoms don’t go away with rest.