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Trouble maintaining focus!

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  • Trouble maintaining focus!

    I practice quite a bit and actually enjoy the process of practice.



    Where I have been struggling lately is focus. I'll set the metronome at a tempo I can easily handle for a song / section / solo / whatever - and less than a minute in I start thinking about what's for dinner, calls I need to make for work, etc - and bam, that's when I come off the rails. I think this happens more when I practice at the end of the day - brain must be tired....



    Any advice, strategies for 'staying in the moment'?



    This does not happen when I jam or improvise - if I put on Pandora and solo over the songs that come up I have no problem. Something about the "practice" gets my mind wandering.....

  • #2
    I did an interesting experiment earlier this year where I sat down to practice and timed how long it took for me to lose focus and start noodling... started off about 2-3 minutes. Yikes! A real eye opener. It didn't mean I wasn't getting good work done in my practice time, but it was amazing how little focus I had, and how distracted I'd get. I don't have any great advice other than 1) be aware of the problem so you can keep yourself on track and 2) set specific goals for your time so that you have a track to keep yourself on. It's like anything else, the more you work on it the better you get.
    <div class="signaturecontainer">Multiple award winning blues/rock/country at <a target="_blank" href="http://www.zeyerband.com">http://www.zeyerband.com</a> or <a target="_blank" href="http://www.reverbnation.com/zeyer">http://www.reverbnation.com/zeyer</a>.<br>Check my solo (instrumental rock) projects at: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.reverbnation.com/vincedickinson">http://www.reverbnation.com/vincedickinson</a><br><br><br>&quot;Music is like the English language - it's just full of rules that need to be broken or you aren't hip.&quot;</div><br>&quot;It doesn't take talent to upgrade your playing. It takes patience&quot; - Kenny Werner

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    • #3
      I've got pretty terrible concentration - it's kind of my Olympus at the moment.

      SLEEP. I like to practice for 2 hours in the morning. Personally though I find 2 hours of practice after 5 hours of sleep is way less productive than 1 hour of practice on 6 hours of sleep. Cause I've more mental energy! For example. Quality over quantity, and quality we must continuously strive to improve. Well, you know that, obviously, being on the trail as you are... Scott Tennant likes to nap before concerts. Clears his head...

      I'd like to think if I never let my brain lax out with grass and facebook and cartoons but rather kept it always working taut with SLA, chess, Victorian novels &c. that I'll be less prone to diversion, hmm!

      Meditation of course is exercise for attention. If you can keep up the habit. Nutrition, exercise, yada yada. Healthy body - healthy mind - more mental energy...

      Would that we had the time and the wherewithal to have it so together!

      Coffee? Tea?

      Cigarettes? Dexedrine? (no don't)

      Short walk or a snack after your brain gets tired? Jump back in all fresh-like?

      Slow the hell down. My fingers can move faster than my brain. When they have to stop (or when they merely screw up), it's because they've gotten too far ahead. Cater to the limiting factor - play a note because you've thought about playing it, not just because your finger knows well how to get there... Plus it's way harder to keep focus moving slowly, so...!

      Bydo nailed it. Be aware of it. So you jam for half an hour, run scales for twenty minutes, transcribe for forty... how about "work on focus" for ten minutes? Play something you know reasonably well, and try to catch your mind every time it wanders, and bring it back to where it should be. Couple weeks, try for 15 minutes. And so forth. And somehow feel out how it feels for the mind to not only catch itself when it strays but to hold itself exactly in that place - not too tight, not too loose - where it won't wander to start with.



      Oh, I might have one helpful bit after all. Can you read? That's been helping me. You think away for a second and you're lost. It engages the power of the visual cortex to more deeply involve its substantial energy with the task at hand, rather than leaving it to whimsy. And it keeps you thinking ahead, which is so important. Could be a great way to strengthen an attention span.
      <div class="signaturecontainer">tl;dr</div>

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      • #4
        Reminds me of a chapter in the amazing book "Talent is Overrated" where they cover a study of tens of thousands of world-class violinists. The very best violinists in the world practiced when they were fresh, relaxed and alert. A tier or two down - still professionals and excellent players, but not quite at the top - put in about as much time at this point in their life, but they typically got their time in in the afternoon, when they were a bit tired and not as focused.
        <div class="signaturecontainer">Multiple award winning blues/rock/country at <a target="_blank" href="http://www.zeyerband.com">http://www.zeyerband.com</a> or <a target="_blank" href="http://www.reverbnation.com/zeyer">http://www.reverbnation.com/zeyer</a>.<br>Check my solo (instrumental rock) projects at: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.reverbnation.com/vincedickinson">http://www.reverbnation.com/vincedickinson</a><br><br><br>&quot;Music is like the English language - it's just full of rules that need to be broken or you aren't hip.&quot;</div><br>&quot;It doesn't take talent to upgrade your playing. It takes patience&quot; - Kenny Werner

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        • #5
          Do you use a practice timer? Just set an alarm clock to about 5 minutes and try to concentrate fully on the task, I always drift off into other exercises/songs when I don't have an exact time limit on the exercise.

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          • #6
            What if there were a way to "productively" lose focus? You drift from exercises to noodling, right? What if you could rein in your noodling a bit, keeping it inspired by and relevant to the material you're working on?



            For example, I've been reading through a lot of baroque violin music. In Bach's D-minor Partita, the Sarabanda has some really nice cadences that always distract me - I start noodling and changing them up and trying them in different contexts (like standard tunes) with no particular aim or reason. But I have a hard time seeing anything wrong with that - on the contrary I believe it is productive, finding new ways to use old material, and subconsciously letting it sink in.



            It's probably easier to hang out in this middle zone for extended periods of time than just going over rote material, because you get to be creative. But it also isn't too comfortable, i.e. you're not just reflexively playing stuff you already know and therefore not making any gains.



            Agree with many of the previous points too about practicing when you're fresh. Unfortunately so many other things are also better done when you're fresh that it becomes a pretty scarce resource.
            <div class="signaturecontainer">Solo Christmas Guitar<br />
            <br />
            <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-gDHTSZ3AY" target="_blank">It Came Upon A Midnight Clear</a><br />
            <br />
            <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpcUJDQwym4" target="_blank">The Christmas Song</a><br />
            <br />
            <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_WxmRNwuFY" target="_blank">Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas</a></div>

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            • #7
              Thanks for all the feedback. Yes I use a timer (sometimes). I do drift to noodling, but not in this case. This is a very specific to arpeggio or scale training with a metronome - or - repetitive lead lines. My mind wanders and I make a mistake and start over. I play a mental game with myself by imagining I am on-stage - can I make it through without a mistake? Mind wanders - bam! And funny, it does seem to be worse if I set the metronome slower than my ability - almost like my brain gets bored and looks for something else to do. Sometimes I drift mentally in the first 10 seconds!



              I am going to take the advice here and move this type of practice to the morning and will read the music while playing it to give my brain something else to focus on.

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