Centre for Performance Science

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MSc

Terry Clark

Mental Skills in Music: Investigating Use, 
Ability, and Training

DMus 2010

Interest in the use of mental skills by musicians is growing. Despite this, however, those skills providing the greatest benefits to musicians, and the ways in which they may be acquired and developed most effectively, is still unclear. An interview study with 29 professional and advanced-level student musicians demonstrated a number of key differences between experienced and less experienced musicians, both in terms of how they view music performance as a profession but also in their practice and performance routines and experiences (Chapters 3 and 4). Additionally, a range of mental skills were discussed by many of the musicians for a variety of functions in the performance preparation process. Based on these findings, a nine-week musician-specific mental skills training programme was developed. The topics covered fell under three main categories: motivation and effective practice, relaxation and arousal control, and performance preparation and enhancement (Chapter 5). Pre- and post-testing involved a battery of questionnaires, public performances, and participant feedback. In comparison with a control group, significant changes emerged for the experimental group's views toward practice activities and specific practicing behaviours, self-efficacy for performing, and imagery vividness. Comments from the participants revealed greater levels of self-awareness, confidence, facilitative views toward and heightened control over anxiety, and healthier perspectives toward music making (Chapters 6, 7, and 8). With the aim of developing an ecologically relevant method for assessing musicians' imagery abilities, timing profiles of inter-onset-intervals from live and mental performances were compared. The participants varied in their ability to perform the different components of this task successfully. Significant links emerged between the results from the mental chronometric comparison and imagery vividness and time spent employing imagery, suggesting that these may moderate musicians' ability to perform this type of task (Chapter 9). This research has provided evidence on the positive effects that mental skills use, and structured mental skills training, can have on musicians’ practice behaviours and performance experiences. 

Related publications 

Clark T, Lisboa T, & Williamon A (2014), An investigation into musicians' thoughts and perceptions during performance, Research Studies in Music Education, 36, 19-37 [DOI]

Clark T, Lisboa T, & Williamon A (2014), Learning to be an instrumental musician, in I Papageorgi & G Welch (eds), Advanced Musical Performance: Investigations in Higher Education Learning (pp. 287-300), Ashgate. 

Clark T & Williamon A (2009), Developing evidence-based interventions to enhance performance, in A Williamon, S Pretty, & R Buck (eds.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Performance Science 2009 (pp. 97-102), European Association of Conservatoires. 

Clark T & Williamon A (2009), Imagining the music: A context-specific method for assessing imagery ability, in A Williamon, S Pretty, & R Buck (eds.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Performance Science 2009 (pp. 572-578), European Association of Conservatoires. 

Clark T & Williamon A (2011), Evaluation of a mental skills training program for musicians, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 23, 342-359 [DOI]

Clark T & Williamon A (2012), Imagining the music: Methods for assessing musical imagery ability, Psychology of Music, 40, 471-493 [DOI]

Clark T, Williamon A, & Aksentijevic A (2012), Musical imagery and imagination: The function, measurement, and application of imagery skills for performance, in DJ Hargreaves, DE Miell, & RAR MacDonald (eds.), Musical Imaginations: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Creativity, Performance, and Perception (pp. 351-365), Oxford University Press. 

Clark T, Williamon A, & Lisboa T (2007), The phenomenology of performance: Exploring musicians’ perceptions and experiences, in A Williamon & D Coimbra (eds.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Performance Science 2007 (pp. 35-40), European Association of Conservatoires. 

Gregg M & Clark T (2007). Theoretical and practical applications of mental imagery, in A Williamon & D Coimbra (eds.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Performance Science 2007 (pp. 295-300), European Association of Conservatoires. 


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