Have you ever wondered if professional musicians have some special ability or received special teaching that helps them be creative, improve faster and be somehow immune to performance anxiety? It turns out there are “under the hood” techniques which any musician can use to gain these same abilities, and transform the experience of learning music into one of joy and ease.

Today on the podcast we’re joined by Gerald Klickstein, author of a ground-breaking book which is widely respected in the world of music education: The Musician’s Way.

Written as a handbook for the aspiring professional musician it’s packed with insights and strategies that can actually empower any musician. It tackles some of the most confusing and frustrating problems that musicians face, regardless of their instrument, musical style or career aspirations.

Topics like: how to design your practice to actually achieve results quickly and consistently. How to gain confidence to perform, even if it terrifies you. And how to nurture your creativity and collaborate well with other musicians.

The book reveals the hidden areas which professional musicians benefit from for learning, playing and performing – but which are generally left out of traditional instrument lessons.

Gerald has extensive experience as a teacher including on the faculty of several US universities – but the book isn’t based only on his own ideas and opinions. It’s evidence-based, meaning he’s drawing on a wide body of research and sharing what has been proven to work.

In this conversation Gerald shares:

  • One unorthodox but incredibly valuable piece of advice on how to choose the exercises and pieces you work on.
  • A simple but effective way for anybody to overcome performance anxiety using a practical process, as well as a really useful framework for thinking about what’s causing your anxiety when it arises.
  • A great tip for anyone who’s wanted to record themselves playing but found it a really intimidating and stressful experience.
  • Plus how the experts take full advantage of their “musical autopilot” – but without leaving themselves prone to performance freeze-ups due to relying on it.

If you’ve ever struggled to make your practice time deliver real results, or you’ve had any anxiety around performing music then you’re going to love this episode and how it opens your mind in new and useful ways.

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Discover proven and practical techniques to accelerate your learning, overcome performance anxiety, and make learning music enjoyable and easy.



Isn’t it such a pleasure to listen to Gerald?

He has such clarity of thought! And about issues which are often particularly confusing for musicians.

His book, The Musician’s Way, equips you with a toolkit for tackling some of the most challenging problems in music learning and helps you become a broadly capable and confident musician.

I think a major theme in our conversation was: often musicians need to slow down to speed up. This applies for learning pieces, for recording yourself, and for learning to perform. If you want to get results quickly the solution isn’t actually to rush ahead as fast as possible!

  • Gerald advises not to choose repertoire at (or above!) your current technique level. Use exercises to improve technique, then apply that new ability to pieces that are easier. That gives you space to actually make it sound musical.
  • He recommends starting by forming an aural model and then think about getting the notes right! So listen to a few recordings and form an idea of how you want it to sound. Then take the piece section by section and use his “7 Essentials of Artistic Impression” to form your own interpretation.
  • We talked about how recording yourself can be daunting – but that’s because we treat it like a judgement. Instead, start by practicing recording yourself, using pieces you can already play well. Identify very specific aspects you’re listening for and trying to improve, rather than thinking about how good or bad it is overall.
  • Gerald helpfully points out that performance is itself a skill! And that means it’s something to be learned gradually, step by step. The Person, the Task and the Situation all matter, so let yourself ease into it with very easy tasks and situations.
  • The symptoms of performance anxiety are quite common and consistent, but their root causes vary a lot. The key way to overcome them is to give yourself a gradual path to performing with increasingly challenging tasks and situations, but starting with minimal pressure and expectations.
  • Gerald says there’s almost nobody who can’t learn to perform confidently. He gave an example of musician with a tremor so bad they physically could not play – yet by following this gradual, step-by-step approach of not rushing ahead to big performance challenges, he was able to go on to become a professional performer.

Throughout all this you can remember that “slowing down to speed up” isn’t a “cop-out” for amateurs – it’s something used by musicians even at the highest levels, and it is in fact the most effective way to reach true heights of musicality.

If you’ve ever struggled with how to effectively keep your skills developing, how to bring musical expressiveness to your playing, or with working up the nerve to perform the music you love, I know there will have been a golden nugget or two in this conversation for you to take away and apply in your musical life.

If nothing else I hope you will make some time this week to “practice performing” like Gerald suggests. Give yourself a zero-pressure situation but go through the process of really performing one of your pieces. Then next time, maybe invite the cat!

For more details on all that we discussed, plus boosting creativity, collaborating, injury prevention and more I highly recommend getting a copy of the book (or eBook), The Musician’s Way, and visiting the companion website: MusiciansWay.com.

Thanks for listening to this episode! Stay tuned for our next episode where we’ll talk about how to learn faster by recording yourself.

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