Performance and Happiness: New Research Shows Promise for Musicians

By Vitale, Christine | International Musician, August 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Performance and Happiness: New Research Shows Promise for Musicians

Vitale, Christine, International Musician

Would you like to be a happier and more productive performer? Here is how you can get started: Think about your most recent performance and write down three things that went really well during that performance along with a reason for each of these successes.

Chances are good that, as you become aware of some (maybe unexpected) positive aspects of your performance and how much you controlled these aspects, you may also feel more positive. And this can help you not just on an emotional level. Research detailed in the book Handbook of Positive Psychology (Oxford University Press, 2005) has found that positive emotions have a tremendous advantage over negative emotions during problem-solving tasks.

People experiencing positive emotions tend to exhibit a wider array of action-oriented thoughts than do people who experience negative emotions. In fact, negative emotions tend to narrow the ability to creatively problem-solve. Additionally, positive emotions in the short term may set you up to experience them in the long run too. For musicians this is of great importance, as post-performance thoughts often seek to find solutions for improving performance skills and post-performance mood can be gloomy.

In Pursuit of Happiness

Why else would one make the point to acknowledge what went well in performance? The answer comes from the up-and-coming field of positive psychology: Happiness! Happiness is a big word and this phenomenon has, for the longest time, been viewed as an illusion or a fad. Recently, however, with promising research on well-being and happiness pouring out of the positive psychology movement, the mainstream media along with the general population is starting to catch on.

Focusing on human strengths rather than weaknesses helps people live happier and more fulfilled lives. Theorists also agree that experiencing positive emotions and finding meaning in things we do leads to happiness; and this can actually be learned. One key appears to be an active involvement in the pursuit of happiness-the constitutional right of every American.

Musicians can use this knowledge in various ways. First, we need to get away from reviewing our performances purely from a critical angle. This is not to say we should ignore our short-comings or areas for improvement. Rather, as experts in identifying what needs to improve, we often forget to acknowledge our achievements. By learning to first reflect on what went right, we can set ourselves up for a positive emotional experience, leading to a more fruitful reflection on strategies to improve our playing. Furthermore, identifying and expressing which efforts lead to positive performance outcomes can assist a musician in improving.

Break It Down

Another approach to the post-performance evaluation process includes comparing the level of certain parts of our performance-these can be musical or technical items-to the level achieved in a preceding performance. Comparing achievements keeps us from making absolute and stand-alone self-assessments and instead is putting our accomplishments into a context of our own development and playing level. Furthermore, this approach offers the advantage of breaking a performance into smaller contributing pieces. The sum of these small aspects then makes up the basis from which we can judge the entire performance, protecting us from ruminating about just one thing that went wrong.

Many of us entered the music world because we experienced firsthand how inherently rewarding making music can be. It engages us fully, draws on our strengths, and allows us to lose self-consciousness in the moment, all of which are components associated with a phenomenon called flow (and happiness).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Performance and Happiness: New Research Shows Promise for Musicians


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?