The Lady Organist

an online magazine for organists

Psychology books for organists

The sports psychologists have been putting sportsmen and women through Mental Skills Training (MST) for years, and musicians have only just caught on to the fact that many playing and performance issues are mental rather than physical.   So our tutors put strange sports books on our reading list.  Here are some that I have read:

The Inner Game of Music Barry Green with W Timothy Gallwey (Pan Books 1986)

The Inner Game idea has been around for a while – this book is a spin off from the original The Inner Game of Tennis  by Timothy Gallway, which I bought and read way back in the 70s. Some people I’ve spoken to find his approach really useful, others less so.

Bounce Matthew Syed (Fourth Estate 2010)

Hugely reassuring, this book debunks a lot of the assumptions about the nature of talent and performance, and supports the “it takes ten years hard work to become an overnight success” theory.  Also helpful discussion on what Americans call “choking” – falling apart in performance, and what causes it.

Golf is not a Game of Perfect Bob Rotella with Bob Cullen (Pocket Books 2004)

If you know (or care) nothing about golf, then all the golfing stuff here will drive you nuts, but stick with it! – you’ll take away some good ideas on performance strategy, coping under pressure, and general mental toughness, by the end.

And here are some others on MST that have been suggested by my tutors but I haven’t got round to reading them yet:

Keeping your Nerve Kate Jones (Faber Music, 2000)
I’m told this is quite a simple book for younger students perhaps, but still solid advice

The next two are quite academic and not such an easy read:

Musical Excellence ed Aaron Williamson (OUP, 2004)

Performance Strategies for Musicians  David Buswell (Virtuoso Coaching, 2006)


If you have a personal recommendation for this list let me know!