Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Staying Focused

Just a Few Things to Think About
I noticed some of my students with focus "issues" spacing out during our improvisations. During! Turns out, they had all of the keys memorized and figured they could just play any key while looking around the room daydreaming about something else. No, no, no. That is not how music practice works! 

When you play an instrument, your attention must be on the song at hand, the present moment, and even a little teeny tiny bit into the future! There is no room for daydreaming. So, I pulled out some paper with each space cadet and had them help me make a list of every detail one must focus on while playing the piano. One student came up with 22 items! During every single note, and every single rest, there are many details your brain has to process. The tempo (speed), the dynamics (volume), the curve of your fingers, is your back straight? What comes up next? What kind of mood should I be playing? How many beats should I be counting per measure? Are your eyes on the right note? How many beats does that rest get?? 

And the list goes on and on. The brain must process all of this information very quickly, during each and every single note. Every note is important. I believe this is why music practice is such a good brain work-out. Probably also why it is a stress reliever. When you are freaking out about something, try putting your focus on playing an instrument or singing a song. It will give your brain something else to focus on besides the problem at hand. With music, my brain has gotten used to focusing. After many years of practice, my brain knows that as soon as I sit at the piano it is time to focus. No matter what chaos is going on in my life, I can always count on this habit. It really comes down to staying present. Not in the past, not so far into the future. Just one note at a time, one beat at a time. 

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