Psychology of Music, the pending subject

Art, entertainment, business… Music is a very significant part of our society and, being a subject traditionally undervalued in our schools, we have not hesitated to build a very powerful formal education environment around this discipline.

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Art, entertainment, business… Music is a very significant part of our society and, being a subject traditionally undervalued in our schools, we have not hesitated to build a very powerful formal education environment around this discipline.

Schools, academies, conservatories and others are destined to fill the void left by the music in the educational system and, depending on the aspirations of the student, you can choose from a more casual or recreational training to a more regulated and oriented to the professionally.

However, when we reached a certain level of specialization, we found an increasing demand for execution, which entailed an increasing number of hours of classes and rehearsals, and what started as a hobby or the pending subject of the school, became in a high performance sport. As such, it can involve all those risks associated with psychological level that we find in all sports.

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The demands of music training

On the one hand, a music student usually has to, by necessity, combine their musical training with their academic training and make no mistake: musical training is not a complement, but involves as much or more than a university degree (or much more, in the case of some careers), and you still have to hear that about “you study music … and what else?”.

And it is that dedicating so much effort and time to music in a world that urges us to “not confuse” our “true” formation, together with the tremendous demand and competitiveness of some centers, implies a very high risk for intrinsic motivation, is to say, in order to guide our behavior towards music simply because we like it, which has as a consequence that many students leave early, staying on the road a lot of talent, and many others continue to develop other types of discomforts.

Manage stress and anxiety

In the first place, the demand for a performance and dedication superior to what each one considers as “normal”, can lead to the mental state that we know as stress. Stress is an adaptive response of the organism to a situation of change in the environment or of maximum demand, but without adequate management, it can extend for longer than evolution had calculated, and bring with it certain psychological consequences (anxiety disorders). , depression) and physiological (indigestion, muscle tension, headaches, back pain, etc.).

One of the psychological consequences of stress is anxiety, characterized by involuntary thoughts such as regrets (“I should have studied more”, “I made a mistake too serious”) or pessimistic expectations (“I’m going to make a mistake in this part”, “I’m going to suspend “,” I want it to end sooner “) that tend to be inter related to physical reactions (tremors, sweating, tachycardia …).

The most ironic thing is that this state, in high doses, is very harmful when it comes to achieving high performance when performing any task, especially if it is playing a piece in public when we are playing a title, but the most disheartening is that that we were passionate about before gave way to those negative feelings.

Progress in music psychology

It is this situation that has caught the attention of psychologists on this area, and although most of the work has consisted, in investigating those optimal methods for teaching and learning music (constructive learning vs directive), more and more music training centres are interested in the mental training of their young musicians, a variable that had traditionally been left to chance and had served as a sort of tautological natural selection in the conservatories (“if you can not bear this, it is that you’re not worth for music “).

Today more and more voices are raised to say no, that these variables are capable of being trained. Thus, there are certain techniques aimed at maintaining intrinsic motivation, based on working with objectives and the perception of self-efficacy, techniques to combat anxiety, such as breathing and relaxation in the search for that optimal level of activation or techniques to manage that pressure Yes, it will always exist, but it is in our power to regulate it, and we can do it through techniques such as exposure or cognitive restructuring, all with the ultimate goal of optimizing the experience and performance of not only our musicians, but also also our dancers, actors and all those members of the performing arts.

Finally, emphasize that every day the importance of the work of the psychologist in the mental training of the musician becomes more evident. In a world as competitive as music, the mental factor can make a difference in a professional’s musical career.