Biofeedback for Musicians

One possible way of learning how to control performance anxiety is biofeedback sessions. These sessions help people learn to control some internal bodily processes which, as a rule, occur involuntarily. Heart rate and blood pressure, for example.

During a session the patient has electrodes attached to various areas of the body which monitor heart rate, skin temperature and other external signs of the internal process. The therapist takes the patient through various mental exercises and the results of the monitoring are shown on a computer screen. Once the connection is made, the patient can often learn to control the mental activities that cause the physical changes. Many musicians have successfully treated performance nerves through this method. One downside can be the cost of the sessions which can range from $50 - $150 per session, with several sessions often being required. Click here to read research on how this technique can help musicians. 

Personal biofeedback devices

biofeedback stress eraser

Another option is a personal device such as the StressEraser Portable device. The StressEraser is a handheld device that is an award-winning, FDA-regulated, portable biofeedback device that helps you learn to activate your body's natural relaxation response in minutes, without the use of medication. It has a variety of functions including

  • showing the impact of breathing on heart rate
  • Daily Points to help you establish performance benchmarks
  • A timer that allows you to set session limits
  • A sound option  which enables you to use it with your eyes closed
  • A screen light to enable you to use the StressEraser in the dark

This is something you could easily keep in your pocket or instrument case and take out before a concert to help regulate your breathing and increase your relaxation and focus before a performance. Read more about the StressEraser here

Active Feedback

A possible alternative is the active feedback game Journey To The Wild Divine. This is a computer game (Mac and PC compatible) that uses a USB device to measure your heart rate and skin temperate, allowing you to complete the game tasks. The opening exercise, for instance, requires you to increase your heart rate (feel excited) to make three juggling balls spin on the screen. Another exercise asks you to relax and allow a feather to drift towards the ground. I have a copy of this software and I have actually found it helps many of my students with performance anxiety. And I like playing myself! 

In addition, since it is se up like a game they don't mind playing it - and the more I have involved in the game at any one time the harder they all work competing to achieve exercises and stay ahead of each other! While the website makes it clear this is active feedback as opposed to biofeedback many of my students have found success with the system, and gained more control and focus when performing.

Watch the video below for more information.

Expert Practice Secrets

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Frustrated with your practice? Read Practice Makes Perfect and hack the 10,000 hour rule. Cut your practice time by up to 25%! Make faster progress, learn pieces and scales faster, memorize more easily, and much more. "If you play an instrument you need this book!"

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