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Be Kind With Your Thoughts

Making music is a joyful experience. We create sounds from the heart and communicate to the world with this universal language. We create new skills and exercise our brains. Yet, sometimes, it’s stressful. We are human beings and we can be hard on ourselves when we don’t think something is “perfect” or perhaps we don’t perceive ourselves as “good” as someone else. These thoughts can hinder your motivation to practice and learn something new. I am guilty of this myself and it’s not a great headspace to be in.


So, if music is supposed to create joy, what do we do when we get in this headspace where it brings us anxiety instead? I’ve started the process of using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Do a quick internet search, it’s pretty fascinating. It’s a method that teaches your brain to redirect negative thoughts into positive ones. The first step is identifying the negative thought as unhelpful. After that, find a way to reframe that thought so, instead, it is encouraging and helpful. Here’s how I would approach this in my situation:


  • Identify the problem: Struggling to play repetitive fast notes in a piece of music.

  • Identify the unhelpful thought: I’ll never play this right.

  • Identify the unhelpful feeling: Discouragement and anger.

  • Identify the unhelpful behavior: Giving up on the piece.

  • CHALLENGER: What is another way to think about this? Is it written in stone?

  • Identify the new helpful thought: This is more challenging than I had expected, but it’s making my brain work! My current practice method is not working. Is there another practice method I can use?

  • Identify the new helpful feeling: Curiosity and motivation.

  • Identify the new helpful behavior: Continuation of learning the piece.

  • MANTRA: CHALLENGES ARE ADVENTURES AND LEARNING EXPERIENCES


Here is another situation that might be a bit more applicable for a beginning cello student:


  • Identify the problem: I keep squeaking on my instrument.

  • Identify the unhelpful thought: I’m not any good, I’ll never get this right, I sound bad.

  • Identify the unhelpful feeling: Discouragement, sadness, annoyance.

  • Identify the unhelpful behavior: Giving up the instrument or quitting lessons.

  • CHALLENGER: What is another way to think about this? Is it written in stone?

  • Identify the new helpful thought: I’m curious about what makes the instrument. squeak. Right now I’m doing it on accident, can I do it on purpose?

  • Identify the new helpful feeling: Curiosity, motivation, ownership of abilities.

  • Identify the new helpful behavior: Coming in with specific questions to my next lesson, showing off how well I can squeak my instrument to my teacher.

  • MANTRA: CHALLENGES ARE ADVENTURES AND LEARNING EXPERIENCES




Training our brains to work like this is a skill and takes practice, just like a musical instrument. You will get better at being kind with the words you say to yourself, even in stressful situations. Let’s be honest, we need kindness most in those stressful situations.


Christina Craig Gentzsch is one of the co-owners and cello instructor at Dynamic Music Studios in Coralville, Iowa.



#dynamicmusicstudiosblog #cello #cellolessons #music #practicing #CBT #cognitivebehavioraltherapy #makingmusic #kindthoughts #coralville

#IowaCity #iowamusic

Candid Photo by CliftonMarie Photography


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