Can Too Much Analysis Lead To Paralysis?

The phrase “paralysis by analysis” gets tossed around a lot by brass players (and musicians in general).

It is also be used by different teachers to mean different things. I know I’ve used it when talking to students about finding practice time, or hesitation attacks.

This blog article by Jason Sulliman (of 1,000 Days of Practice fame) explains the hidden dangers of the phrase. It’s focused on the performing musican, but it’s applicable to any knowledge- or skill-related field.

[T]hey just don’t want to think too hard, and “Paralysis by Analysis” becomes a rather convenient way to dismiss the necessary and specific work that some individuals may need to do in order to play their best.
Scientist studying the dynamics of dynamics.
Hmmm. If I play the forte louder, then my mezzo-piano doesn’t have to be as quiet.

Generally speaking, more knowledge is not a bad thing, provided that it’s deployed in a useful way. Arnold Jacobs used to talk about “wearing different hats” depending on his current task. So he could wear his “teaching”, “practice”, or “performance” hat and adjust his thought process accordingly.

Jason continues:

Even musicians who think they ‘never had to’ [practice certain techniques] probably did, they just don’t remember (or a smart teacher made it happen by assigning certain things without talking about it!).

The whole post is short (7 paragraphs and a picture), but is worth a read if you’re looking at improving your practice efficiency.

(For one thing, the picture breaking down playing into 4 different skill sets is worth a look).

Read Jason’s full post here.

About Colin Dorman

Colin is a freelance horn player and teacher, as well as a fan of tech of all sorts, aviation, and increasingly complex flight simulators. He also enjoys beer, bourbon and fitness - but not at the same time. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, as well as right here at!