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Body Doubling | Practice Strategies for Musicians

What is body doubling?

What is body doubling? 

Body doubling is an accountability and productivity strategy in which someone stays in your presence while you complete a task, especially one that is difficult or brings up resistance.

Examples include: going to a library or coffee shop to do work, having a walking buddy, facetiming a friend while you clean your room, going to the gym to exercise, joining an art club etc.

Body doubling is an especially useful tool for people with ADHD and other neurodivergent individuals, as well as anyone who struggles with executive function, attention, consistency, motivation, or just getting started. (The tools that are extremely effective for those who REALLY need them are often helpful for everyone else, too!)

If you’re at the library to study and you see people around you reading, you’ll be in the headspace to study too. Maybe you’ll be tempted to check your phone or go on YouTube, but you came to the library for a reason. Your usual habit has a lighter hold on you in this intentional space, so you study.

Another example is going to the gym. You could easily move your body at home by going on a walk or a run or doing stationary cardio, but it’s never quite as satisfying at home, so you go to the gym for the atmosphere and the accountability. You’re more likely to finish your whole workout plan with other people around you doing their thing too. When you finish your workout and leave the gym, you feel noticeably transformed leaving that space. It’s a separate universe that was meant specifically for that activity. 

Here are two quotes by Atomic Habits author James Clear that illustrate the importance of our environment in shaping our behavior and habits:

“What often looks like a lack of willpower is actually the result of a poor environment.”

“Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior. We tend to believe our habits are a product of our motivation, talent, and effort. Certainly, these qualities matter. But the surprising thing is, especially over a long time period, your personal characteristics tend to get overpowered by your environment.”

If you are or ever were a music student, you know how it feels when you’re practicing in a practice room at school, and the environment feels noticeably different from practicing at home by yourself. Maybe at home, you don’t have a piano or a proper chair or a sturdy music stand, or maybe your roommates or family buzzing around makes it harder to stay in the zone because no one else around you is practicing.

When you’re in the practice room, there’s something about the energy of other people around you putting in the time and effort on their instruments that brings you into the right headspace for practicing. And that’s the reason you came to a separate practice space in the first place, so it just feels right to dig in. (Unless you cover your practice room window like you’re in a secret cocoon so that you can do your homework or take a nap – don’t be this person if there’s a line to get into the rooms! But that’s a problem for another day.)

In music, body doubling can look like warming up with a friend, playing duets together, or going to the school practice rooms together. On a larger scale, it can be going to chamber music or instrument-specific festivals or conventions where being immersed in specialized techniques and performances is inevitable.

The Mindful Practice Room is all about body doubling! It's a virtual community practice and coworking space for musicians to build the courage or the motivation to:

  • Get your instrument out of the case (the most important and underrated step!)

  • Do the deep technique work

  • Make tangible progress on a tricky recital or audition piece

  • Experiment, play without expectation, and improvise

  • Start a composition project

  • Practice journal

  • Read books about your instrument, music, creativity, pedagogy

  • Engage in deep, mindful focus within your music

  • Enter a state of flow that's easier to find in the right environment

The Mindful Practice Room is a come-and-go-as-you-please community space that takes place on Zoom for hour-long sessions twice a week. It has the benefits of community, inspiration, and accountability by being surrounded by other musicians with the privacy of being muted from your living room (which completely eliminates comparison: you can’t hear anyone else practice, and no one can hear you). If you want to immerse yourself in community and show your face, you can keep your Zoom camera on, or if you prefer to cover your practice room window and want to keep to yourself, you can keep your camera off (seriously, show up as you are. It’s the best way to show up).

Just like going to the gym or the library, the Mindful Practice Room gives you a fresh setting, an environment of gentle focus and grounding, and a place of structure, support, and consistency.

It's the bumpers you put up when you go bowling. It's the company of a coffee shop while you do your work. It's a friendly art gallery that hosts a knitting circle. It’s not a group, and it’s not exclusive. It’s a collective space and accessible place for any musician with internet connection.

And just like a library, you don't have to stay from open to close. You can come whenever your schedule allows and use the time and space as you wish. You are welcome here even if you show up for 15 minutes, even if you don't feel like practicing, even if your triumph for the day is just showing up, playing one note, and taking a nap.

It’s here for you whenever you're ready. You are welcome here.

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