Focus

PereBourik

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I often lose focus on a piece while playing it. Then, when I play it again to smoothe out the prior mistakes it just gets worse.

How have you learned to get focused and stay focused while playing?
 

sopher

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One thing that I try is to focus in on the smaller details. I play a lot of campanella, so I will focus on how many times I accidently bumped an adjacent string and killed off the sustain on it, or trying to decide during the song if I need to micro-tune for this song to get the best harmony, or how much tension I have in my arms and/or hands during the song. This seems to keep my mind from wandering.

Your mileage may vary

Sopher
 

RichM

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To build on what Sopher said, it's important to separate practice from playing. When playing, if you make a mistake, it's important to play through and minimize the impact of the mistake. When practicing, you want to focus on the mistake, figure out what's causing it. and practice that phrase or section until you can eliminate the mistake. For me, it's the hardest part of practice. I'll often find myself rushing through a difficult section to "get it over with," when what I really need to be doing is slowing that section down and figuring out why it's giving me trouble. Sometimes it's poor technique, sometimes it's just practicing until it feels comfortable, and sometimes it's just bad choices (i.e., playing a higher note on the same string when playing it on an adjacent string would make it easier or cleaner).

To PereBourik, I know you're taking lessons from a top-notch teacher, so be brave and bring your sloppiest stuff to her and get advice. We often want to impress our teachers with our best stuff, when we get the most value bringing our biggest challenges to them.

I had been playing banjo for about a year when I started taking lessons from Tony Trischka. I wanted to impress him, so I learned his version of Train 45 and played it for him. My heart sank into my shoes when he quietly shook his head and said, "Sounds like we have some work to do!" We spent 30 minutes focusing on the first four bars of the tune, with Tony showing me a much more efficient right-hand approach. I learned more about playing the banjo in those 30 minutes than I had in the year previous!
 

Doc_J

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I practice/learn new songs 4-8 bars at a time. Repeating the segment until I get it right, or make small changes so I can get it right in my version.:)
 
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soupking

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I just play the same four chords over and over and over and over. Sounds good to me ;)
 

PereBourik

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To build on what Sopher said, it's important to separate practice from playing. When playing, if you make a mistake, it's important to play through and minimize the impact of the mistake. When practicing, you want to focus on the mistake, figure out what's causing it. and practice that phrase or section until you can eliminate the mistake. For me, it's the hardest part of practice. I'll often find myself rushing through a difficult section to "get it over with," when what I really need to be doing is slowing that section down and figuring out why it's giving me trouble. Sometimes it's poor technique, sometimes it's just practicing until it feels comfortable, and sometimes it's just bad choices (i.e., playing a higher note on the same string when playing it on an adjacent string would make it easier or cleaner).

To PereBourik, I know you're taking lessons from a top-notch teacher, so be brave and bring your sloppiest stuff to her and get advice. We often want to impress our teachers with our best stuff, when we get the most value bringing our biggest challenges to them.

I had been playing banjo for about a year when I started taking lessons from Tony Trischka. I wanted to impress him, so I learned his version of Train 45 and played it for him. My heart sank into my shoes when he quietly shook his head and said, "Sounds like we have some work to do!" We spent 30 minutes focusing on the first four bars of the tune, with Tony showing me a much more efficient right-hand approach. I learned more about playing the banjo in those 30 minutes than I had in the year previous!

We talked about this in my lesson. I do want to do well for her, yet I know better than to try to shine her on. She has me practicing the piece in phrases beginning with the final phrase, then the middle, then the beginning.

This particular piece has me under some pressure. I want to play it for worship on Christmas Eve so there's the pressure of a deadline, performance, and worship. Tried to have it ready for last year and the got a terrible cold ( and a reprieve), sending in the replacements for Christmas Eve. Every time I screw it up I feel the pressure building.
 

johnson430

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I practice/learn new songs 4-8 bars at a time. Repeating the segment until I get it right, or make small changes so I can get it right in my version.:)

I agree with this method. It is what I do when I learn a new piece.
I like the idea of making it "my version".
 

sukie

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Have you made a background track to practice with? Maybe that would let you relax a little more. Just play along with it.
 

PereBourik

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Have you made a background track to practice with? Maybe that would let you relax a little more. Just play along with it.

Great idea! Now if I could just get through it cleanly once.

I'll give it a shot tomorrow.
 

Camsuke

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I'll gladly provide a midi file if you send me the tab.
 

Chopped Liver

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I've read that it helps to record yourself playing. Then you can listen back and see what's going on. I think it's easier to focus when you know you have to listen to it again!
 

JustinJ

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One of the best things you can do is play very slow when first learning a piece. Do not worry about timing. Make sure you place your fingers correctly from the beginning.

Try to relax and even if it takes you thirty seconds to get your hand correctly, do it. You will make a good habit from the beginning. Once you start playing something making the same mistakes, it's hard to correct. It's just easier to do it right the first time.

This method of playing slow is how most musicians will learn a piece. It's when you try to rush and play fast that mistakes and sloppy playing happen.


Study the piece before playing. Is there a pattern that repeats. How should you place your fingers so that you can transition between notes and chords. Do you notice how the chords progress. . If you can, try to hum it before playing.

If you take this approach, you will find that you focus naturally. You will have a deeper understanding of the song and the muscle memory will be correct.
 

sukie

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Great idea! Now if I could just get through it cleanly once.

I'll give it a shot tomorrow.
Oh, Pere....I'd never have a track if I was going for perfection. I just make them as best I can.
 

PereBourik

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Oh, Pere....I'd never have a track if I was going for perfection. I just make them as best I can.

Took me about seven takes to get through to the final few notes.