Making Your Brain Melt – Focus and Classical Guitar Practice

Let’s face it, most of us have not got the luxury of spending hours and hours and hours of time to practice every day (as much as we’d like to). And even for those that do have that time available to them, there is one thing that everyone of us can benefit from – focus!

What do I mean by focus?

In a nutshell it’s that period of supreme concentration with no external distractions (no phones beeping an incoming text, no checking Facebook) and no internal distractions (no invading, obtrusive or otherwise unhelpful thoughts). It’s that period where time can seem to flow faster than normal and you feel like you’re achieving something.

So how do I get focus?!

Well, some days you’re going to be more in a focussed headspace than other day, but there are a number of things that can help you get into the zone and ready for some good quality practice:

  • Think about what it is you really want to get out of your practice session before you start it and think about the things you might need to do to achieve that.
  • Break your practice session up into bite-sized pieces, as there’s only so long you can maintain quality focus for. I often set a timer for 25-30mins, giving myself a little brain break of 5 minutes before diving in again for another 25-30mins.
  • Avoid the temptation to check any incoming messages, emails or calls and set you phone to silent, flight mode or turn it off.
  • Focus on the task at hand. Don’t concern yourself with what’s coming up in the rest of your day. Lay aside for a time any concerns, worries, day-to-day kind of stuff and just be present, right in the moment for your practice. Give it all of your attention and energy for that period you’ve set aside. And enjoy it!
  • Make sure you’re well hydrated, just with plain simple water, prior to your practice session and perhaps have a glass of water handy in your practice room. Make sure you’re well fed too – I know that I absolutely cannot focus in any way, shape or form when I’m hungry.
  • Avoid thinking about what others are doing, that video you saw on YouTube of that four year old kid playing your favourite piece or what you think that others may be think of your playing – this when things can go awry. Why? It’s simple really, if we can only really focus on one thing at a time, if you’re thinking about a myriad of other things, you’re taking your mind and your focus, off of what it is that you’re doing. You’re not present for the music you’re making.
  • If you’re struggling to focus and you feel like it’s really not happening for you today or at this moment, don’t struggle on with it – put your guitar away for a while, do something else and come back to it later.

When you come out of the other side of your supremely focussed practice session you probably will feel like your brain is going to melt or fall out of your head or some other similar sensation. Which is not surprising given that you’re using a whole load of brain power and building new neural pathways. Along with that sensation, I can guarantee that you will have achieved something – nailing that tricky chord change, working out a fingering, checking out a new piece for the first time. So, try a little focus and see what happens!

 

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