top of page

Music and Mindfulness

Katrina has now graduated with an MSc in Mindfulness Studies with the University of Aberdeen.

Her final dissertation, "Seeing the Whole Elephant: Understanding the Nature of Mindfulness" is now made available here free of charge for the benefit of other researchers and interested parties. This arts-based research was an exploration of the nature of mindfulness using composition as a methodology. The dissertation explores the mindful experience of composing "The Astonishment of Being" - a work for large community orchestra with solists from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

For those who don't want to wade through 18,000 words of philosophical research, here's a shorter introduction to the topic of mindfulness and music: Mindfulness has historically been developed through meditation practice, but there is increasing evidence that it can also be developed through compassionate music practice and that this may bring similar benefits, i.e. increased ability to focus and concentrate, greater clarity of mind and a wider awareness in any situation. As the mind is trained in this way, it becomes possible to regulate one's emotions more easily, resulting in greater emotional stability and a reduced susceptibility to stress, anxiety and depression.

Both meditation and music practice require years or perhaps even decades of daily practice in order to reach a level of mastery.

Katrina is particularly interested in investigating the paradoxical mental health crisis which is ongoing in the music profession. She is hoping to uncover some straightforward answers for those professional musicians who, while extremely mindful in their musical lives, are nevertheless suffering from poor mental health. Both meditators and musicians seem to find it difficult to transfer their high-level mindfulness skills into daily life circumstances.


Katrina gave a talk at Lyth Arts Centre on this topic on Saturday 13th August 2017 (see more about that here.) If you'd like to look up some of the references, or share similar information with others, feel free to download her slides for that talk by clicking on the icon.

Practical Approaches to Mindful Music-making

In order to reduce performance anxiety and general anxiety, professional trumpeter Grant Golding encourages his students to practice gentle improvisation over a meditative backing track, so if that's a problem for you, why not give it a go here?

A significant obstacle to happiness for many experienced musicians is a tendency towards reactive self-criticism. We have been trained, as musicians, to identify and remedy faults in our performance technique but sometimes this process can manifest as a harsh, unforgiving, unrelenting critical inner voice. It takes real courage to be willing to face up to these negative thoughts and identify the resulting emotions. But once that work has begun, we can start to learn how to respond in a different way - with skill, understanding and self-compassion - to whatever arises in our musical practice. The advantage of practising in this way is that these skills are directly transferable to allow us to take a similar approach to dealing with difficulties in our daily lives, resulting in a much happier perspective.

Musicians, with their already highly trained minds, are ideally placed to undertake this kind of compassion training in order to recover or protect their mental health. If you're interested in finding out more about the neuroscience behind compassion training, then look up "Mindful Compassion" by Paul Gilbert.

bottom of page