Let Intuition be your Practice Guide
This blog post is a small sample from Chapter 8 of PracticeMind: The Complete Practice Model by Hans Jensen and Oleksander Mycyk
I have a strong belief in intuition. When confronted with a difficult decision, I always try to compare logical thinking with intuition. On one hand I create a list with pros and cons about the decision I am about to make and on the other, using intuition, I just say yes or no to the decision. If the logical thinking aligns with intuition the choice is easy but if the logical and intuitive sides don’t agree I tend to follow my intuition against logical thinking. In most cases the intuitive answer has turned out to be the correct decision!
Intuition can be harnessed as a great tool to use when practicing and performing. Here are some ideas about intuition from Chapter 8: Intuition, Metacognition, and Creativity PracticeMind: The Complete Practice Model by Hans Jensen and Oleksander Mycyk.
Chapter 8: Intuition, Metacognition and Creativity
“I believe in intuition and inspirations... I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am right."1— Albert Einstein
Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. Unlike instinct, intuition has the potential to improve with experience and acquired knowledge. This ability is developed to a high degree in many fields such as the arts, athletics, science, and medicine, to name a few. Many of Albert Einstein’s groundbreaking insights were inspired by intuition rather than logic or mathematics.
To most people, intuition is a gut feeling, an inner voice or sixth sense that tells them what to do when making important or quick decisions. One research team lead by Professor Gerard Hodgkinson of the Centre for Organisational Strategy, Learning and Change at Leeds University Business School found that intuition is the result of the way brains store, process, and retrieve information on a subconscious level.2 Through analysis of a wide range of research papers examining the phenomenon, researchers concluded that intuition is the brain drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision—but one that happens so fast the reaction takes place subconsciously.
Although intuition exists at a subconscious level in many instances, when asked, “What is your gut telling you?” the answer (when not pertaining to hunger or digestion) does not always arise immediately. Sometimes, access to your inner decision-making powers requires self-reflection.
Additionally, self-efficacy impacts intuition since your perception of self influences the trust you place in your inner decision-making ability. Mindful self-reflection can help you develop your powers of intuition with regard to problem solving in the practice room, expanding your musical imagination, and making in-the-moment performance decisions.
Intuition, Metacognition, and Music Making
Most of the intuition that takes place within your performance mind is an integration of the third stage of motor learning (the autonomous stage)3 with rhythmical entrainment4 and what you intuitively feel emotionally and hear from yourself and your surrounding sonic environment. While much of what takes place between players in a chamber music setting is rehearsed, intuition also plays an important supporting role. The primary difference between a novice performer and an expert is that all the autonomous aspects of performing are far superior in the expert performer, and the intuitive possibilities are much more developed.
When developing expertise in playing a musical instrument, applying metacognitive strategies such as planning, implementing, visualizing, self-questioning, and reflective thinking will enhance learning and help you get better faster. As you continue to mature as a performer and become better at practicing, your intuition will also develop. As this process unfolds, allow intuition to assert a more influential role during practice and performance.
When a great idea arises during practice that intuitively feels right, metacognitive methods can help you explore the idea and turn it into a skill or concept you can consistently use in the future. As we learned earlier in the book, metacognition does not have to be related to conscious thoughts; it can also be a feeling or a nonconceptual representation. It is common to experience a feeling of knowing or that an answer is on the “tip of the tongue.” That kind of intuitive awareness about something often turns out to be the answer you have been searching for, the inspiration that begins a journey of discovery toward solving a problem or finding the best strategy for reaching your goal.
Musicians can open their minds to intuition in several ways. When starting a new work, you might have an intuitive feeling for how to shape the piece; use this to guide early exploratory stages of learning. Later in the process of learning the piece, your logical and analytical mind can cultivate the seeds of ideas planted by your intuitive mind. As the work nears maturity and all intellectual processes have taken place, allow intuition to shape and expand the expressive elements of your performance.
1 Calaprice, Quotable Einstein, 434.
2 Hodgkinson et al., “Fundamental Bridging Construct,” 1–27.
3 Chapter 7: Psychomotor Learning - PracticeMind
4 Rhythmical entrainment means synchronizing an action (such as tapping your foot) to an external perceived rhythm (such as music and dance).