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Life In Harmony: Mindfulness And Making Music

Life In Harmony: Mindfulness And Making Music

For both young and seasoned musicians alike, the thought of combining mindfulness and making music may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But what if I told you that merging these two activities can supercharge your creative abilities, improve your mental health, and even hone your muscle memory? This isn’t just a fancy idea—there’s a solid body of evidence backing the powerful impact of mindfulness on music making.

Mindfulness and making music
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Table of Contents

What Is Mindfulness?

Before we look at mindfulness and making music, you first have to understand what mindfulness is and what benefits it can bring.

At its core, mindfulness is the practice of tuning into the present moment, fully aware and engaged. It’s about listening to each breath, noticing each thought, and feeling each sensation without judgment. Think of mindfulness as your mental gym where you work out your ‘awareness muscles.’

It is also an emotional gym. Noticing each sensation without judgement develops a deep sense of acceptance and contentment. It reduces your stress levels and your level of distraction.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the essential mindfulness session. They are used as dedicated sessions to deepen our sense of being mindful, and our ability to attain a mindful state and to stay in a mindful state. They are also used for longer mindful activities and indeed a mindfulness session can include a few mindfulness meditations.

Often, mindfulness meditations are guided by a person or a recording of a person, to help you to stay on the path. As you become more experienced, you might prefer unguided mindfulness sessions. This is largely down to personal preference.

There are numerous types of mindfulness meditations, for a variety of purposes. 5 common mindful exercises are:

  • Mindful breathing
  • Mindful observation
  • Mindful awareness
  • Mindful listening
  • Mindful appreciation
Beyond basic practice, there are a great number of areas of potential benefit between mindfulness and music making.
Body Scan

Body Scan is a very common type of mindfulness meditation session that usually incorporates mindful breathing and mindful observation and mindful awareness alongside actively accepting what you observe and feel. In it, you use the mind’s eye, the locus of focus, to slowly tour your body. As your mind touches on each part of your body, in a pre-set sequence, you notice the sensation, almost as a dispassionate observer. You notice the sensation, and you accept the sensation. Meaning, you don’t attach your emotional reaction to that sensation. 

Awareness is all about observation and acceptance.

Mindful Moments

Just as a mindful meditation strengthens our abilities to transition to a mindful state by growing our experience of being mindful and of the pathways to being mindful, mindful moments are opportunities throughout the day to switch into a mindful state, to use that mindful state to your advantage, in that moment.

For example, you might use a mindful moment to calm your nerves before going on stage, or before an interview. You might use a mindful moment to improve your level of performance, or to aid your learning during practice.

How Does Mindfulness And Making Music Mesh Together?

When it comes to music, heightened awareness is golden. Whether you’re a songwriter, producer, or performer, each note and rhythm carries its own weight and emotion. Mindfulness enables you to dive deeper into the music you’re creating or performing, enriching both the process and the outcome. More then that, heightened awareness improves the development of muscle memory. That makes it a highly useful tool for singers and for instrumentalists.

Learning Outcomes

1. Sharper Musical Skills: According to a study in the journal “Frontiers in Psychology,” mindfulness-based practices can improve attention and focus. For musicians, this translates into being better equipped to learn new pieces, pay attention to complex rhythms, or understand the nuances of sound engineering.

2. Enhanced Muscle Memory: As per research published in “Behavioral Neuroscience,” mindfulness can contribute to better motor learning—essentially, your muscle memory. Musicians rely heavily on muscle memory to perform without being hindered by overthinking each action, making this benefit invaluable.

3. Deeper Emotional Connection: Heightened awareness lets you better connect your own emotions to the music you’re creating. It becomes easier to translate feelings into lyrics, melodies, or instrumental arrangements.

Mental Health Benefits

1. Stress Reduction: A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that mindfulness practices can reduce anxiety and stress. For a musician, less stress can mean more freedom to explore creativity without mental baggage weighing you down.

2. Overall Well-Being: Research from Harvard Medical School supports the idea that mindfulness enhances general psychological well-being. This helps to approach your music from a place of emotional strength and stability.

Practical Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness in Music Making

Breathing Techniques

Better harnessing breathing can potentially bring massive benefits to musicians. When it comes to mindfulness and music making a mindful moment focused on your breathing works wonders. Before hitting that recording button, or taking to the stage, indulge in a few moments of deep, focused breathing. Centering your breath helps you become aware of the present, easing any performance jitters and enabling a stronger connection with your instrument or voice.

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Mindful Practice Sessions

Try to engage deeply with each note, beat, or lyric during practice. This not only makes your practice time more productive but also helps in developing muscle memory. The more aware you are during practice, the more efficiently your muscles ‘remember’ the movements, enhancing your skill level.

Learning how to listen to your body, and specifically what parts to listen to more closely, is a set of skills worth developing.

Tools

Use tools to help you to reach and maintain a mindful state of mind. The use of tools can also be used to help you record your lessons learned as part of personal development and skills development. Tools certainly provide an advantage when it comes to the practice of mindfulness and making music.

Supporting Tools for Mindfulness in Music Making

Journaling

Maintaining a journal where you can jot down your creative thoughts, musical reflections, or even the emotions you felt during a performance can be an enlightening experience. You can refer to this journal to evaluate your growth both as a musician and as someone practicing mindfulness.

Metronomes and Tuners

You can also turn your metronome into a mindfulness tool. The act of synchronizing with the metronome’s beat during practice can be a form of mindfulness that hones your timing and rhythmic awareness.

Mindfulness Apps

Apps can be very accessible tools to aid your efforts in mindfulness and making music. Consider using mindfulness apps like Calm or Headspace that offer specific programs aimed at increasing focus and reducing stress. These are excellent tools to warm up your mental state before you dive into your musical realm.

Experience & Opinions

Let's Hear It From the Pros

Even world-renowned musicians vouch for the power of mindfulness and making music. Artists like Kendrick Lamar and Alanis Morissette have talked about the significance of mindfulness in enhancing their creative process. Paul McCartney once said, “I’ve got to keep my mind still to be able to produce music.” If legends like McCartney emphasize mindfulness, there’s something to it, right?

Conclusion: The Perfect Harmony

Ideally you want mindfulness and making music to become second nature. Your go to approach to life and creativity.

Incorporating mindfulness into your musical journey is an investment that pays off in skill, speed and depth of learning, emotional depth, and well-being. The best part? This isn’t just a temporary boost. The benefits of mindfulness and music making are impressive. They are long-lasting and transformative, paving the way for not just a better artist in you but also a more balanced individual.

Practice mindful meditation to strengthen that mindful muscle, to become good at getting and staying mindful. The next time you pick up your guitar, sit at your keyboard, or prepare to belt out a tune, take a mindful moment to augment your experience. When it comes to mindfulness and making music, your music, your audience, and most importantly, you, will feel the difference. And that’s a standing ovation worth working for.

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