- One specific meditation has been scientifically proven to significantly improve creativity.
- Many meditation techniques can make you more aware of sound. You will actually hear music better when you meditate.
- Meditation improves cognitive function. If you want to improve your skills on a musical instrument, try meditation.
- Not only will you be better at making and playing music when you meditate, you will also enjoy and appreciate music more.
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. And 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
- Steve Vai
- John Frusciante
- Paul McCartney
- Sheryl Crow
- Jeff Bridges
- Thomas Cohen
- Jon Hopkins
- Sharon Isbin
- Al Jardine
- James McCartney
- Mike Oldfields
- Katy Perry
Clearly, musicians from all different genres have used meditation. But why?
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.
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.
Today, I’d like to share what I’ve learned from a lifetime of playing the piano and meditating. As well as playing piano, composing, and meditating for many years, I’ve written about meditation and taught meditation. I have also read countless papers and articles on both subjets.
Why do I tell you this? Because your music matters and I want you to know that this information is coming from a valuable source.
If you want to make better music, or if you want to improve the way you play a musical instrument, you should definitely consider meditating. Here’s why.
5 Ways Meditation Makes You A Better Musician
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, relax your mind and become aware of the entire world around you. When you do this, you should not be focusing on one singular thing but rather on everything.
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.
Source: Science Daily
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.
You can learn more about using meditation for creativity here. And I’ve written a guide to all the most important types of meditation. You can learn more about “Open” meditation techniques via that link.
MEDITATION LETS 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.
When we looked at meditating for creativity there was just one type of meditation that helped. Focus is a different thing. There are literally hundreds of different meditation techniques that will help you to focus on your music. However, there is one technique that is particularly worthy of your attention. That technique is mindfulness meditation.
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).
You might wonder why you would want to focus on your own breathing for twenty minutes.
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.
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. So why is this surprising?
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, 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. (Source: NCBI).
So 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.
MEDITATION IMPROVES PERFORMANCE SO YOU PLAY BETTER
Now, I’ll have to put my hands up here. Because to my knowledge there have been no studies that tested how meditation affects the way you play an instrument. And I have read over 200 studies of meditation.
However, when we look at certain other proven benefits of meditation, it becomes obvious that meditation would make you better at playing an instrument.
For starters, an article on Huffington Post discussed ten reasons why meditation makes you better at sports and athletics. 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 an example. 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 truly believe that meditation will significantly improve a musicians’ ability at their instrument. And it also makes you a better performer on stage (just ask Katy Perry who uses mindfulness meditation).
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.
Meditation heightens your enjoyment of listening, playing, and composing music.
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?
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If you are a musician, try meditation. 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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