I just did my first solo recital in a while.
It was nothing huge: 45 minutes of repertoire for my department’s noon-hour concert series.
There’s nothing like the threat of public humiliation to make you take your preparation seriously. If you’re anything like me and your practice time is tight, please read on to find out how strategic use of essential oils for practicing music. Essential oils can help you make the most of the practice time you do have, keep you healthy, manage discomfort without side effects, and get a great night’s sleep.
Essential Oil Support for Practicing Music
A few months ago, I released a blog post about Rosemary as a crucial essential oil for memory support. Rosemary is the first oil you should consider when you need to focus and get things done and is a great essential oil for practicing music. You’ll see it mentioned a lot in this post.
Use a Practice room diffuser
My practice piano is in my little home office, and I have a diffuser right beside the piano. There is always Rosemary oil in the diffuser.
I keep the drops of essential oil to 6, as the room is small, and I often have a dog keeping me company in the room. Ideally I would crank up the intensity much more, but I don’t want my furry cheerleaders to be overwhelmed by the scent. The diffuser gets turned off when a dog comes in, especially if I’m keeping the door closed.
Diffuser blends for practicing
Into the diffuser I have a few favourite blends that involve Rosemary the great memory supporter, and I usually include Peppermint too which is amazing for focus and is energizing without making you jittery. Here are some of my favourites:
- 1 Rosemary, 2 Peppermint, 3 Lime or other citrus
- 2 Rosemary, 2 Peppermint, 2 Eucalyptus
- 2 Rosemary, 2 Peppermint, 1 Wild Orange, 1 Frankincense
You can play with the number of drops, you can substitute any other citrus oil, or a different respiratory oil instead of the Eucalyptus (Easy Air, Litsea) or whatever you want.
What doesn’t go into the diffuser
I stay away from wood oils in the diffuser for practicing music (except Eucalyptus because it encourages deep breathing). When time is at a premium, I prefer to maximize the energizing oils instead.
Ditto for the floral oils. I find them too soothing for practice, and I find I get distracted by the lovely smells. For this reason they stay out of my practice space.
Topical use of oils for practicing music
Using essential oils topically is a fantastic way to support focus and the memory process and can be used in addition to diffusing. Sometimes you have to practice away from your diffuser. What?? Yes, it’s true. Haha, what did I ever do without my oils? How my life has changed!
Signature topical blend: “Go Practice”
Especially if you’re away from your diffuser it’s important to have oils with you that you can use topically. My hands-down, absolute favourite topical combination is my signature blend that I’ve come to call “Go Practice”:
- In a 10ml roller bottle, add 6 drops each of Rosemary, Frankincense, Wild Orange and Peppermint. Top with carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil).
You can certainly customize the blend to suit your purposes, and my personal concoction has evolved over time. I tend to like it much stronger, and sometimes I throw a little Lemon in there with the Wild Orange. Sometimes I ramp up the Rosemary. Sometimes I bump up the Peppermint. I certainly go through enough of it that I’m making new batches all the time.
I keep one roller in my purse, one in my home office, and one in my office at the university where I practice too.
Where to place essential oils for practicing music
Apply to the base of the skull, temples (keep away from eyes), and anywhere else you feel it needs to go. For some reason I really like it on my forearms. I don’t know why; I just like to put it there. Bottoms of the feet works really well too, but usually I’m too intent on getting my hands on the piano than to deal with whipping off my socks.
This blend works like magic. If you need to get notes learned quickly and accurately and want to make sure you retain as much as possible across practice sessions, use this. If you do, please report back and let me know how it works for you!
Other great pre-made topical combos
If you’re not into making your own blend and just want something you can grab and use, dōTERRA has a few really great pre-made roller combos that work well too. I will say though that for all-round productivity and focus, plus the added bonus of managing stage nerves without making you too calm, “Go Practice” in my personal experience has proven to be the big winner.
Below is a list of pre-made dōTERRA blends that work well, and my notes on each.
InTune®: This was the first roller I tried when I decided to experiment with using oils to support practicing. It does a very good job with focus and I use it at home occasionally. If you are in a situation where “scent-free” is an issue (like symphony rehearsal in my world), this one is a no-go because of its strong floral scent that is even detectable if you apply it sparingly to the soles of your feet.
Motivate®: I really like this one, and it comes in a diffuser-ready oil blend too. It smells like a chocolate orange and a chocolate mint had a baby, it’s so yummy. It really does motivate you to get moving, so sometimes I’ll put this one on if I need to convince myself to put my butt on the bench and get going. This is my favourite substitute for “Go Practice” if I need something in a pinch.
Thinker®: This fabulous blend is one of the genius blends in dōTERRA’s Kid’s Oil Collection. Designed to help kids concentrate, this blend is almost identical to my Practice blend with one important difference. In addition to Rosemary and Peppermint, Clementine is the citrus, and Vetiver is added for grounding. In my personal experience I find Vetiver to be toocalming for stage, but it’s great for practicing.
For more information, check out this great post on the dōTERRA blog:
Aches and Pains when Practicing Music
All musicians have something that hurts. There are a few must-have oils and products that can keep you away from the side effects over-the-counter medications and support your pain-management needs naturally.
The great thing about using oils for pain management is sometimes the same oils also overlap with the ones that we use for focus too.
Deep Blue Rub®: If you have nothing else in your toolkit, you need to have Deep Blue Rub. It is the topical pain reliever par excellence. It is not at all greasy so it won’t leave a slippery residue on your fingers. There is Peppermint in it, which you know by now is amazing for focus. There also Eucalyptus which helps open up the airways as it helps with sore muscles. If you have any sore muscles, use this.
Copaiba®: This oil works on the same body systems as CBD but is not at all from marijuana, so there is zero chance of any distracting side effects from it. You can apply topically along with Deep Blue Rub to enhance the pain-relieving effects, and you can put a drop or two under your tongue for additional support of discomfort. Bonus: it is very calming.
Peppermint: We love to use Peppermint as a driver for other oils. Add Peppermint on top of whatever you put on, and it will magnify that oil’s effects. A great combo is Copaiba first, Deep Blue Rub on top of that, and Peppermint on top of the whole thing. Drive it all in with a small sprinkle of water and let it cook. Bonus: great focus.
Frankincense: Add to any topical application to make everything work better. It pairs especially well with Peppermint for head tension in particular.
Lemongrass: This oil works really well to support tendons and ligaments. If you have anything going on in your hands, wrists or arms add Lemongrass to your topical application concoction.
There are many other oils that help with discomfort as well, and if you have them you can drop them in. Siberian Fir, Black Pepper, Turmeric and Eucalyptus are just a few more suggestions. Do some digging and see what resonates with you.
Staving off the Ick
No one has time to get sick when there are performances coming up. Take full advantage of the power of oils to help keep you healthy.
dōTERRA’s On Guard® blend needs to be in your diffuser constantly. If anyone in the house is sick, On Guard should be in all the diffusers, all the time. You can add other oils to the diffuser to change up the scent if you find you need a change.
Try some of these oils in combination with On Guard to change things up a bit:
- Any citrus oil
- Easy Air® (also known as Breathe®), especially if you need respiratory support too
- Serenity® or Lavender at bedtime
Change it up! Just keep that diffuser humming.
You can also use Holiday Joy® in place of On Guard.
Also, please check out my recent blog post where I go into some detail about how to really make oils work for you to keep you healthy, or help you manage when you do get sick: https://theessentialmusician.ca/the-top-ten-essential-oils-for-cold-and-flu/
And please be sure to catch the free guide on my homepage, “The Top Ten Essential Oils to Maximize Your Focus and Minimize Your Downtime”. You can also grab it at the bottom of this post. There’s a lot of great info there!
Prioritizing Sleep: Bath Time Wind-Down
We all know sleep is super important. My evening routine always consists of a hot bath to relax the back muscles, and I often put in a handful of Epsom salts with a few drops of something added before dispersing into the bath. Anything goes here, but my favourites usually combine something calming along with something that supports sore muscles:
- 2 Siberian Fir, 2 Lavender
- 2 Frankincense, 2 Lavender
- 3 Cedarwood, 1 Marjoram
There are so many others. Have fun with this. Just remember to drop the oils into Epsom salts or bath wash first before dispersing in the bath.
Sleep Diffuser Blends
You can do a quick search and find all kinds of diffuser blends for sleep. Find what works best for you. You may find that your Bath Blends match your Sleep Blends.
I have a diffuser beside my bed, and when I’m getting ready for bath time I bring it into the bathroom to fill it up, and I run it during my bath. Whatever I put in the diffuser I’ll find something different to put into the bath.
Here are a few of my recent diffuser favourites for sleep:
- 3 Bergamot, 2 Cedarwood, 1 Marjoram
- 3 Lavender, 3 Clary Sage
- 3 Bergamot, 2 Serenity®, 1 Roman Chamomile
Bump up the sleep efficacy by applying oils topically too: Serenity®, Balance®, Cedarwood, or the great Kid’s Collection blend Calmer®. If you have the Serenity Softgels (available in the US warehouse) pop a couple of those too.
Yes, I really do all these things. Yes, I sleep like a log most nights, and I used to have terrible insomnia issues.
Foundational Support: Great Supplements
Last but not least – in fact, probably “most” – dōTERRA’s Lifelong Vitality Supplements have made an enormous, noticeable impact on pain, mood and energy in my life. I take them with breakfast and lunch, and if I miss a dose my ability to concentrate and my energy really suffer.
Especially during recital prep time, I make sure that I’m diligent with taking my LLV, because if I don’t then I just find it harder to concentrate when I’m practicing, and the information just doesn’t stick.
When there are times that I know I need to have energetic focus (for a difficult rehearsal, for example) I’ll sometimes strategize taking my LLV dose an hour before, and I have noticed that it really keeps me on top of things.
Definitely do this before a performance. This was an unexpected surprise that I discovered once before a noon-hour performance. Take that LLV an hour before you need to concentrate, and you’re golden.
This may seem like a lot of information, but I really do use oils in all of these ways every single day, especially when I have performances coming up. These protocols are especially useful when practice time is limited and when you have multiple programs you’re juggling.
Start with one thing and see how it goes. See what you notice and comment below with your findings so we can all learn from each other!
Ok, Go Practice!