[Harp-L] mental practice

Steve Baker steve@xxxxx
Thu Dec 15 14:55:38 EST 2016

Great description Chris. English musician and designer Lee Sankey has written a scientific paper about this entitled "Brainstruments". In it he interviews a wide selection of top contemporary jazz musicians as well as a number of harmonica players including Howard Levy and Joe Filisko. I invited him to give a talk on his findings at the Harmonica Masters Workshops in 2012, it was most interesting.

Basically Lee reported that every single one of the (very accomplished) musicians he interviewed has a mental model of their respective instrument, which they without exception use for mental practice. Interestingly, the exact nature of the mental model ("brainstrument") varies considerably, not just from one instrument to another, but more importantly, from one person to another even when dealing with the same instrument. Lee also spoke to a number of leading neurologists, who said it's now generally recognized that such mental models are common in many different areas of human endeavour pursued at a high level.

I certainly practice in my mind frequently, though I couldn't describe my model in such an elegantly visual way as you do. It can't entirely replace "real" practice, but it does appear to be very helpful at keeping your hand in when opportunities to actually play are limited, and most musicians use it in some way. Check out Lee's website for further information:


Steve Baker

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