Performance Psychology

Tyler Coffman

Imagery In Music Performance
In this week’s edition, we will be tackling the importance of

Imagery in a music performance setting. As musicians, we all

strive to achieve the perfect audition and spend most of our lives

trying to find the right formula to put it all together. The most

important factor that could help a performer prepping for an

audition is mental imagery. In Charles E. Keller’s article on this

concept, he discusses the idea of practice away from the

instrument like for example putting yourself in that setting in

which you were to perform in your head and run through the ideal

performance for yourself. This requires a working memory of

pitch, timbre, and/or intensity patterns from the music that is

being worked on in order to imagine this said ideal performance. 1

Studies of what is called the anticipatory auditory imagery have

1 Keller, P. E. (2012, January). Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences and BioScience. Mental 
Imagery in Music Performance: Underlying Mechanisms and Potential Benefits. 
proven that the act of picturing how one is going to perform

improves coordination with the ensemble as well as the

movements associated with having a great performance. It has

been shown in Nadine Pacenka’s lab research that the physical

part of imagery is almost just as important as the general music

that is being focused on. This stresses factors such as tempo or

engaging in an assortment of emotions.2 The Centre de

Recherche et d'Innovation sur le Sport has found that mental

rehearsal can improve performance by a third and mental

rehearsal plus dry movements can improve performance by


It also important to visualize the proper physical gestures in

order to enhance the music performance. Anthony Gritten and

Elaine King discuss the importance of proper physical movement

that comes as a result of playing their instrument.4 The

movements should come as a result of the natural breathing

process and feeling that’s not over exaggerated. They pointed to

the idea of using Dalcroze Eurythmics as a way to help

2 Ibid.
3 Adding movement to 'dry run' mental imagery enhances performance. (n.d.). from 
BioMed Central Limited

4 Gritten, A., & King, E. (2011). New perspectives on music and gesture. Farnham: Ashgate Pub. 
compartmentalize those movements. Dalcroze Eurythmics are

exercises utilizing fundamental concepts, its expressive

meanings, and its deep connections to other arts and human

activities.5 Using all of these factors together can combine to help

mentally create the best possible performance for a musician.

5 Dalcroze Society of America ­ "All musical truth resides ... (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2016, from

 Adding movement to 'dry run' mental imagery enhances
performance. (n.d.). from
BioMed Central Limited
 Dalcroze Society of America - "All musical truth resides ... (n.d.).
 Gritten, A., & King, E. (2011). New perspectives on music and
gesture. Farnham: Ashgate Pub.
 Keller, P. E. (2012, January). Annals of the New York Academy of
Sciences and BioScience. Mental Imagery in Music Performance:
Underlying Mechanisms and Potential Benefits.