Mindfulness Meditation For Musicians—Beginners Guide

5 Ways meditation makes you a better musician

There are so many great things about mindfulness meditation for musicians.

Whether you’re a new musician or an experienced pro looking for a new way to play, you can get a lot out of mindfulness.

My experience as a meditation teacher has taught me that meditation is amazing for creativity.

And science proves it.

Benefits Of Mindfulness Meditation For musicians

Musicians who do mindfulness meditation can expect to see some huge benefits.

For instance:

  • Meditation makes you more creative
  • Meditation improves dexterity (good for playing a instrument)
  • Meditation helps you feel close to the music (so you can play with more feeling)
  • Meditation makes you more intelligent (it improves cognitive performance). That’s good for… well.. everything, including music.
  • Meditation makes you more confident (so you feel good on stage)

Let’s take an in-depth look at the best benefits of mindfulness meditation for musicians.

 

5 Ways Meditation Makes You A Better Musician

1. MEDITATION MAKES YOU MORE CREATIVE

It has been scientifically proven that meditation strengthens the creative part of your brain. And this is true from the very first time you meditate.

In other words, if you meditate for twenty minutes today you will immediately be more creative.

There’s an important caveat here:

There is one specific type of meditation that makes you more creative. It’s called “Open meditation”.

Open meditation techniques are meditations when you focus on the entirety of your environment.

To do an “Open” meditation technique:

  1. Sit comfortably with good posture
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Take 10 deep breaths while focusing on the way your breath moves around your body
  4. Listen to your environment. Tune in to the sounds around you
  5. Aim to spread your consciousness evenly (so you are aware of everything without focusing on any one thing)
  6. Continue for 20 minutes.

Science has proven that “Open” meditations make you more creative.

Cognitive psychologists Lorena Colato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University conducted research and discovered that a brief meditation session can have a deep and lasting affect on your creative brain.

The researchers took 40 participants and asked them to practice “Open” meditation for 25 minutes. The scientists tested the participants’ divergent and convergent thinking both before and after the meditation session.

Divergent thinking refers to your ability to come up with possible solutions. For instance, if you’re creating a new song, if you are good at thinking divergently you will generate lots of ideas. Convergent thinking relates to your ability to find commonalities. For instance, if you wanted to create a song that was like a mix between Kanye West, The Beatles, and Beethoven, your brain would find the common ground between those three elements. I think you can see why divergent and convergent thinking would be important for your creativity and your music. [1]

 

 

 

2. MEDITATION HELPS YOU FOCUS WHILE YOU PLAY

One of the most commonly known facts about meditation is that it helps you to focus. And this can be very important in music.

When you are practicing music at home there are distractions that can prevent you from truly focusing on your music.

I remember when I played piano at home as a teenager part of me would be thinking about what was on TV, what my family were up to, and so on.

When you meditate you gain more control of your mind. You are then able to tune out distractions so that you can focus exclusively on your music.

Not only does that make you play better but it also helps you to enjoy the music more.

Most meditations will help you focus on your music

In my guide to 31 meditation techniques I discussed how most meditations help with focus.

There is one technique that is particularly worthy of your attention. That technique is mindfulness meditation.

I highly recommend mindfulness meditation for musicians.

Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that is very easy to grasp, very hard to master, sort of like guitar.

Essentially, when you practice mindfulness meditation you focus your mind on one thing.

Oftentimes you focus on your breath.

Zen monks, for instance, will sit still for long periods of time and focus on their breathing. A simple practice. But it is very beneficial (you can read all about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation here).

When you practice mindfulness you train your mind to focus on one thing at a time. If you spend twenty minutes sitting still focusing on your breathing, you won’t just train your mind to focus on breathing, you will train your mind to focus on any one thing, including the instrument you play or the music you compose.

I’ve written a complete guide to mindfulness meditation to help you get started.

 

3. MEDITATION HELPS YOU HEAR THE MUSIC BETTER

This is a point that I find particularly interesting.

Meditation helps you to hear the music better.

Now of course it is easy to see that when you focus, which meditation helps with, you will automatically hear better because you’re paying more attention.

What’s surprising about meditation is that it helps you to hear the things that you do not want to hear.

Have you ever created a piece of music that you are 99% happy with but for one or two notes here and there? You know that you have to change those notes, but you’re just so happy with the rest of the tune that you keep playing the same thing over and over without actually changing anything, and you then start to tune-out the bad notes and only focus on the good ones?

That is basically selective hearing [2], a phenomena of the mind through which you tune out the things you do not want to hear.

Now of course we are all accustomed to this term “selective hearing” when we’re talking about selectively hearing other people (your wife or husband, for instance). But the term isn’t used as much with music.

When you are playing music, selective hearing can make you tune out the bad parts of your music and only listen to the good parts. That can seriously interfere with your work, because you need to hear the bad parts in order to change them.

The Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied the affect of meditation on listening skills in 2009. They discovered that meditation helps you to pay more attention to things that you do not want to hear.  In other words, after you meditate you will be more able to focus on the parts of your music that need to be changed. [3]

When it comes to editing your music or patching up that piece, you might like to meditate first. It will make you more able to truly listen to what’s going on in that awkward verse.

 

4. MINDFUL MEDITATION MAKES MUSICAL PERFORMANCES BETTER

Another great thing about mindfulness meditation for musicians is that it makes your performances better.

Huffington Post discussed ten reasons why meditation makes you better at sports and athletics [5]. They discussed how meditation improves reaction times, prevents muscular tension, increases confidence, makes you better at communicating, and helps you focus. And I’m sure you, as a musician, will agree with me that musicians could benefit from all those things too.

It is also proven that meditation heightens your mind body connection. In other words, after meditating there is less of a divide between what is happening in your mind and what is happening in your body.

 

Consider this:

You are playing violin and you are emotionally invested in the music. Some violinists would struggle to communicate that emotion (which is in their mind) physically through the violin, because there’s a disconnect between what is happening in their mind and what their hands are doing on the violin. Imagine if there was no divide. The emotions that you feel in your mind would be more quickly and more effectively communicated to your hands, where they will come out as music via the violin.

 

More scientific studies are required to substantiate this theory of mine. But from personal experience, and from related scientific studies, I believe that meditation will significantly improve a musicians’ ability at their instrument. And it also makes you a better performer on stage.

 

5. MEDITATION LETS YOU ENJOY AND APPRECIATE MUSIC MORE

Let’s finish with one of the most important things: sheer enjoyment. Sure, we love making music, we love playing music for other people, and for those of us fortunate enough, we love seeing our music selling in the stores or on iTunes. But our love of music is just that: love. And the most important thing is that we enjoy our music.

Mindfulness meditation makes music more enjoyable.

Why does meditation boost your enjoyment?

Simple. Meditation helps you to live in the moment.

In other words, when you are playing or listening to music, you will be more able to just play or just listen to music. You won’t be thinking about the bills. You won’t be wondering what’s for dinner. You will just be in the music. And what better place to be?

Why not try listening to some meditation music while meditating. Or, meditate on  Tibetan Singing Bowls. Then you can meditate while listening to music.

5 Ways Meditation Makes You A BetterMusician

 

 

Famous Musicians Are Into Mindfulness Big Time 

It really doesn’t matter what type of musician you are. Whether you’re a classical guitarist or a DJ, an opera singer or a master on the didgeridoo, meditation will make you a better musician.

The Beatles realised the power of meditation when they started to learn Transcendental Meditation in 1967.

Since then, countless famous musicians have used meditation to help themselves to make better music.

Among the list of famous musicians who advocate meditation are:

  • The Beatles
  • John McLaughlin
  • Sting
  • Steve Vai
  • John Frusciante
  • Paul McCartney
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Moby
  • Jeff Bridges
  • Thomas Cohen
  • Donovan
  • Jon Hopkins
  • Sharon Isbin
  • Al Jardine
  • James McCartney
  • Mike Oldfields
  • Katy Perry

Clearly, musicians from all different genres have used meditation. But why?

 

My Personal Experience Using Mindfulness Meditation As a Musician

Speaking from personal experience, meditation simply makes you a better musician.

I’ve played classical piano for thirty years. And I started meditating halfway through that period.

Meditation made a big difference to my own music.

When I was in my late teens I lived with my family in a loud house in rural England. I was a shy guy. And though I loved music I found it hard to focus. Noises would distract me. I would be worried about other people listening (I love performing, but people listening while I was practicing? No thank you). And when it came to composing I would often stifle myself by being too focused on results rather than enjoying the creative process.

Enter meditation.

When I learnt meditation I gained a valuable tool.

With meditation I was able to focus on the music, not worrying about who was listening. I was able to enjoy the creative process. And even though my performance skills were already good, I was able to take my playing to the next level.

If you are a musician, try meditation.

And if you are artistic in other ways, you might like to try other artistic meditations like Mindful Writing.

You will find that you enjoy music more and that your skills with your musical instrument or your skills at composing are increase

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