“It Sounded Better at Home:” Achieving Repeatable Good Performance

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why did my playing sound better at home/in the practice room than in my lesson? You should have heard me on Tuesday afternoon – my neighbors thought it was Heifetz!”

Impersonating deceased violinists aside, it is frustrating when our efforts in the practice room yield less-than-stellar results. It can feel almost like all that practicing never happened! Here’s where the concept of RGP (repeatable good performance) comes into play.

Sports psychology researchers define RGP as the ability of athletes to consistently perform at an optimal level. Notice that it doesn’t state, “at peak level,” but at an optimal one. In other words, an optimal level is the best possible performance given the circumstances, which may be less-than-ideal.

So it would follow that the real challenge is to increase your optimal level on any given day, through practice.

What are the steps to achieve that? Below are a few guidelines.

  • Set an outcome-based, i.e., a measurable goal for your practice session or even a small part of a session. For example, “I will play measures 90-100 five times with 100% accuracy.”
  • Simulate a pressure-inducing environment by imagining an auditor or by recording yourself.
  • Use mental imagery to picture yourself performing the specific task successfully. Hear what it sounds like, visualize the movements involved. Define a path to execute the action.
  • Concentrate! Do your best to block out distractions. The more you practice doing this, the more adept you will be when you need it most.