Metacognition Books for Musicians

Metacognition Books for Musicians

To Help Yourself Learn How to Learn

If you look for advice from good 'ol Google on things how to practice guitar, how to practice piano, how to become better at singing...(etc. etc. etc.) you'll be sure to land on a plethora of articles telling you things like "use a metronome, "go slow," "designate a specific time to practice every day."  And there's nothing wrong with this advice, but it's beginner stuff.  And the real juicy knowledge about how to be a better practicer comes from resources on metacognition and sports psychology.  Because improving your practice routine and your relationship with practicing and playing your instrument is never ending and forever fascinating.

The Inner Game of Tennis is a classic read about peek performance.  As you might expect, the book is written for tennis players.  But it lends itself beautifully to musicians, and there was even a spin-off written specifically for musicians called The Inner Game of Music.  The adaptation for musicians is also great, but I especially enjoyed the classic version of the book.

When the mind is free of any thought or judgment, it is still and acts like a mirror. Then and only then can we know things as they are.

~Timothy Gallwey, Author of The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance

Author of A Soprano on Her Head, Eloise Ristad, was unique and creative in the way she approached teaching music.  During her later years of teaching, she was more interested in reading books on sports psychology like The Inner Game of Tennis and The Centered Skier then she was in reading about music education.  To learn more, check out the article Eloise Ristad: Bold Music Teaching by Naomi Aldort.

Our fingers are frustratingly accurate in using the information we give them. If we imagine sloppily, we play sloppily; if we imagine clearly and precisely, that is how we play.

~Eloise Ristad, Author of A Soprano on Her Head

This book is an entertaining look at habits, from many angles.  How we make and break them.  Their impact on how single habits pave the way for other routines in our lives.  How habits differ from decisions.  As musicians, habits play an especially important roll in our lives.  It's interesting to consider how habits can be used to help us improve, and how bad habits can easily become obstacles.

This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.

~Charles Duhigg

Everything in life worth achieving requires practice.

~Thomas Sterner, author of The Practicing Mind

Epstein challenges the popularly held belief that specialization and dedication is the way to become an expert.  His suggestion is that by being well rounded and diversified, we open up new points of view and new possibilities that would be lost to someone who is hyper-focused on one narrow discipline.

We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.

~David Epstein, author of Range

This book is mostly famous for popularizing the controversial ten thousand hour rule and champions the idea that much of what makes the elite who and what they are is about how they have been groomed and how they have dedicated themselves to their discipline.

Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.

~Malcom Gladwell, author of Outliers