Reason’s Swiss Cheese model (1990) and its applicability to music practice

This risk analysis and risk assessment model is commonly used in healthcare, engineering, emergency services, organizations, and mainly aviation. My dad, an amateur pilot, shared it with me and I could not unsee its relation to drums and music.

The model compares human systems to multiple slices of swiss cheese, stacked side by side, in which the risk of a threat becoming a reality is mitigated by the differing layers and types of defenses which are “layered” behind each other. Therefore, in theory, lapses and weaknesses in one defense do not allow a risk to materialize, since other defenses also exist, to prevent a single point of weakness.

When we apply it to music, we could see that in order to nail a performance, record a brilliant EP, teach an inspiring lesson or simply master that pattern you’ve been shedding for weeks, you have to get several things right, so that it can’t go wrong.

This dictates your preparation:

What can you do so that nothing can stop you from succeeding? What firewalls can you build so that if there is some kind of failure, you are still enroute to achievement?

Performance-wise, this can be mean checking all cables and stands, making sure songs are so rehearsed that there is no chance for mistakes, and that you and the rest of the band are in deep flow state together so that everything goes down easier, at least that’s how you perceive it.

When it comes to thinking of a broader perspective and applying to your career development, you could think of Reason’s model as building your life around your goals so that they stay protected and no matter what goes on in your life, you still make progress.

Musician & Educator - From Spain, based in Bristol, UK. - INTJ - In a constant search of mental clarity & inner peace through productivity, focus & motivation.

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