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The Inner Game of Music

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  2,613 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
By the best-selling co-author of Inner Tennis, here's a book designed to help musicians overcome obstacles, help improve concentration, and reduce nervousness, allowing them to reach new levels of performing excellence and musical artistry.
Hardcover, 225 pages
Published February 21st 1986 by Doubleday (first published 1986)
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Erik Dabel
Sep 13, 2011 Erik Dabel rated it really liked it
Great book. Every musician, every music student, and specifically every music teacher, should not only read it, but own it for future references.

There are so many great tips and ideas, and ways to both play music and teach it that get better long term results. Some of which I have already implanted in my own playing and teaching, some of which I am simply waiting for the opportunity to do so.

That being said, there are also several sections that seem like a bit of overkill to me. We must remember
Stefan Kanev
Feb 02, 2015 Stefan Kanev rated it really liked it
It's a bit tricky to rate this book. It appears that it has some very sound advice for musicians, but since I'm not a real musician, I cannot tell whether this is true or not. Anyhow.

I learned about the Inner Game from a friend of mine and I've been wanting to read more about it for a while. I was not that interested in The Inner Game of Tenis, since I don't play tenis. I'm trying to pick up music lately and it seemed like a great way to get introduced to those ideas.

The gist of it is creating a
Mar 16, 2015 Marshall rated it it was amazing

The book provides a comprehensive analysis on what helps / hinders our musical growth. As a musician early on in the development, I find some advices extremely valuable.

The concept of "self 1 and self 2" lays the foundation for most discussions: every musician involves two “self” in terms of performance - Self 1 is logical, judgmental, and self-conscious, Self 2 is spontaneous, natural. We should apply techniques to be aware about self 2. Our goal is to let self 2 express the most, and reframe
Tony Ren
Nov 03, 2013 Tony Ren rated it liked it
My vocal teacher recommended this to me. I thought it was alright. The techniques and tips the book covers are things that may marginally improve your abilities. But it in no way can substitute a real teacher.

A common theme in the book is to: try this, now try that, and notice if it feels and sounds different. For example, the author would suggest try playing a passage as loud as you comfortably can, then as soft as you comfortably can, and suggest you to try and find a middle level in between.
This was accidentally given to me by my viola instructor after being recommended as a way to improve my performing skills. However, while many of the concepts the book gives are excellent, I found the writing patronising and long-winded. While it is sometimes useful to have the 'Inner Game' techniques spelled out in musical concepts, I have found that 'the Inner Game of Tennis', which I am currently reading, is generally more useful in spelling out concepts. Many of the exercises in 'the Inner G ...more
Dec 15, 2011 Lauren rated it did not like it
I actually did not even finish this book. I was recommended to it by my piano teacher, hoping that it would help me with some of my performance anxiety. However, I found it completely unhelpful. I found myself falling to sleep while reading it when it wasn't even bedtime.

To keep it short and sweet, I found the analogies and connections from sports to music a little far fetched, and it didn't keep me interested. There was too many mathematical equations as to how this plus that would equal doodl
Amalie Simper
Apr 23, 2016 Amalie Simper rated it really liked it
This was a re read from my college days in piano performance degrees. It was such a great reprise to see how I have grown as a musician over the years. It explains the idea that a person has two sides to their personality self 1. The self conscious doubting side and self 2. The letting it go, emotion filled side. He gives 4 different ways to work on awareness, several ideas that discuss will power and trust in your playing. It discusses working on your individual instrument, working in ensembles ...more
Tyrone Steele
Mar 30, 2011 Tyrone Steele rated it it was amazing
This is an astounding work related to breaking down the walls that prevent us from executing a relaxed and enjoyable performance. I recommend this for all musicians, but is applicable to nearly any type of performance.
Dec 07, 2011 Charles marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book years ago but decided to re-read it and see what tips I can gain for playing piano.
Feb 18, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it
Helped me learn how to deal with my stage anxiety and helped me to focus better while performing
Oct 20, 2010 Jacqueline rated it it was amazing
The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green is a book any musician, young or old, should read. There are many helpful tools that it provides. Whenever a tool is discussed, there is an excercise for the reader to try. Thus, rather than just reading the book you can put the tools to practice and remember them easier.

I appreciated these excercises. There were simple to understand and made a big difference in my music playing. The book describes a self 1- the voice in your head that is always criticizi
Apr 07, 2011 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
While I know that the inner game works, I had an issue with this book - all of the examples of problems were too easily solved. As a music teacher, I know that solutions aren't always easy - even inner game solutions. Sometimes it takes more than noticing and awareness to solve a problem. I wish the book explored that - and dealing with ongoing frustration - that would have been helpful.

As for the end when he mentions that he forgot black socks for a gig - and solved that particular problem by s
Dec 20, 2014 Irwan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished, 2014
A book full of pointers for musicians or music hobbyist which address the non-technical challenges in learning, playing and performing music. Some of the techniques can be applied to any other aspects of life. Or to put it from another angle, if you manage to train the inner game of music, it will make your music playing the training for your inner game of life.

Recently inspired to do speed reading when listening to this podcast ( This book fits perfectly to the method de
Jul 04, 2011 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Inner Game is a sort of teaching system originally popularized in a book on Tennis. Barry Green was so impressed with the idea he'd read in this Tennis Book that he asked if he could write an application of the "system" for music. After several years testing the system and adjusting it for musical practice, the result is this book, which is rather highly acclaimed.

The "system" takes ages old concepts of awareness; think making your practice sessions more like mindfulness meditation. It's an
Wilbert Van Der Kruk
May 16, 2016 Wilbert Van Der Kruk rated it it was ok
A bit old-fashioned in examples, choice of examples and amount of text, this book describes the power of the mind in playing music or listening to music if the self criticism (self 1) is moved aside and he creative self (self 2) is fostered.
It is about natural learning outside of sports. Similarities between music and sports are playing, self expression, requires a balance between spontaneity and well considered set up, between technique and inspiration, is often before an audience, with the te
Nov 26, 2016 May rated it liked it
Shelves: music
Left over book at my house. The title is a bit deceiving or confusing. It's really about trying not to over think it when you're making music. The inner child is the best musician.

Lots of great tips on how to get over it. If you're having this issue, then a decent read. If you're teaching others there might be some helpful hints in here.

Overall, it is neither good nor bad. Better if you are a true amateur musician, but if you've a bit more experience, this is likely only going to reinforce rat
Jan 03, 2009 Holly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music-books
I read this in college when I was preparing for my senior recital. It is supposedly the same concept as The Inner Game of Tennis geared for musicians. It taught me some great tools to improve my performances - things that I will remember all my life. If you're not a musician I wouldn't recommend it. :)
Jan 03, 2016 Vaselina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very helpful. I read it to try and gain some control over anxiety while playing, and found a lot of tips that worked well for me. I found the section about self 1 and self 2 particularly reassuring, and breathed a sigh of relief to find I wasn't actually going crazy while I practice. I've gone on to recommend it to most of my friends who also play musical instruments.

Definitely worth reading, even if the advice does not seem useful personally.
Stephen Hanrahan
This is one of my favourite music books.
thought me so much about learning and enjoying my music as well as giving me the confidence to play in front of people .

the awareness exercises improved my tone and helped me practice despite being very short on time. this is a book I have time and again dipped into in order to sort various musical problems.

Read this book it helps you learn and perform and truly enjoy music
Matt Fawson
Aug 24, 2013 Matt Fawson rated it liked it
I read this book a few years ago to help me with performance anxieties. Although I found that some of the techniques helped me develop my skills on stage, the book wasn't particularly interesting to read. Many of the chapters often dragged or lacked relevance to music performance.
After reading some of the other reviews on Goodreads I'm glad that other people have managed to get something out of this book, it just didn't do much for myself.
Anne Barkema
Mar 25, 2013 Anne Barkema rated it really liked it
An excellent read about taping into the creative subconscious and creating an environment where it can thrive. Often, we become our own worst enemies by trying too hard and inadvertently blocking the creative flow. The book provides a recipe of focusing on our awareness of what is happening and trusting in our own creative process to take us where we want to go.

This is a book that I will read and re-read time and again as I suspect new insights will float to the surface each time.
Aug 27, 2007 Ann added it
Shelves: already-read
This book contains a lot of interesting pointers for overcoming performance anxiety as an instrumental musician. The method, while written specifically for musicians, could be applied to other areas of performance and probably to public speaking as well. It reads like one of those over-the-top self-help books they sell in the magazine aisle of the grocery store, but in spite of this, I found it to be useful in terms of providing a different perspective on how to approach public performance.
Mar 18, 2014 John rated it really liked it
The useful devices in this book are its repetition of main point, and its brevity. It continually repeats the elements of the "inner game" throughout the book and thus drives them home. In other works, this would be tedious, but it is highly desirable in a work that is trying to change mind habits. The book is also very brief, so it can read quickly. I found it quite helpful, since I have a huge piano exam coming up in April.
John Kiernan
Sep 16, 2016 John Kiernan rated it did not like it
Shelves: music
Well actually DNF. I tried to keep reading, just was not good and didn't really hold my interest.
Referred to "The Inner Game of Tennis" so much I figured I should just read that book instead. Picked up that book instead and, yup, much better.

"The Inner Game of Tennis" is much better and you can pretty much make your own connections from tennis to music.
Savitra Adams
Nov 09, 2012 Savitra Adams rated it it was amazing
I read this book while in my middle twenties. I came away from the book a whole new man/musician; I begun hearing music with a new ear. As a musician of 36+ years, I highly recommend this book. It is good not only for the mind and intellect, but will help the one who diligently applies its principles to a higher musical experience.
Jan 26, 2009 Elizabeth rated it liked it
This book's central premise makes a lot of sense to me: that flawed or negative thinking can cripple your natural talent. Learning to let go of conscious thought and engage fully with the music will release this talent, and Green has many wonderful ideas on how to get your inner critic to shut up so you can get down to business.
Artemisia Hunt
Mar 25, 2013 Artemisia Hunt rated it really liked it
A book written almost 30 years ago that still has relevance for musicians and music lovers. I've always had an intuitive approach to making my own music and this book still had so many wonderful ideas and exercises to add to my own musical practice. And a book not just about the game of music, but also the game of life.
Lesley Gentilin
Feb 03, 2013 Lesley Gentilin rated it really liked it
This is a great book to introduce musicians to the ideas of more focused awareness while playing. It is about playing mindfully yet at the same time getting out of the way to allow the music to come through. I think it is a positive read for all musicians to help improve the quality of their music performance, introducing positive ideas that maybe they haven't explored or thought about before.
Sarah Toth
Feb 22, 2013 Sarah Toth rated it really liked it
The Inner Game of Music offers some very interesting insight in dealing with performance anxiety as a musician. However, I took off one star because many of the training exercises throughout the book were random and I did not find them very helpful. Overall though, this book is a great tool that all musicians should take advantage of.
Des Small
Dec 08, 2015 Des Small rated it it was ok
Meh. Classical music training can apparently be a joyless trudge supervised by ogrous burnt-out failures and mean-spirited bullies. This book is mostly about rehabilitating to a view that music is a joyful experience and you should trust your body and your ears when making it.

Brow-beaten classicistes might profit from this; I didn't.

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  • Effortless Mastery
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  • A History of Western Music
  • The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness
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  • Tonal Harmony, with an Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music
  • The Lives of the Great Composers
  • The Music Instinct: How Music Works and Why We Can't Do Without It
  • Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons
  • Music and the Mind
  • Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story
  • The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature

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“Whenever you are playing or singing music, and you notice you’re in a trying state, stop trying, and focus your awareness on a single element of your movement at a time. Observe your body, and watch it subtly shift to a more relaxed and accurate kind of performance.” 0 likes
“     The body is the best learning facility of all. It has thousands of feedback circuits. And the feedback is instantaneous. The body contains more information than all the libraries in the world, for it codifies, in its structure and its genes, evolutionary experience that goes all the way back to the first living organism. When we vacate our bodies [i.e., pay attention to Self 1 rather than Self 2] … this vast store of information is unavailable to us. When we reinhabit the body and learn to understand its messages, we gain access to a treasure of knowledge and guidance.” 0 likes
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