Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The comfort zone

When practicing, make sure your mind is clear on what you want. Often we practice with an unclear mind, and this becomes the norm. I've noticed myself and my students perform a phrase numerous times. When it finally reaches a point of clarity and brilliance, we move away from it immediately. This is actually the point in which the repeats should begin - not stop.

The mind has a tendency to want to stay comfortable, and comfortable can be a state of clarity or confusion. Whatever it is used to, it will want to return to. If a guitarist with an unfocused approach suddenly gains clarity, the mind will want to move away from that state - it will want to get back to its "comfort zone of confusion". This is very common. We want to watch the mind, notice when it is urging us to move forward hastily, and calmly bring it back. We want to repeat the clarity we've attained so that it becomes the norm.

The mind is like a record with grooves. The grooves we want to firmly entrench involve clear ideas - what notes are we playing, what fingering, what tone, etc. etc. Get your idea clear before you start to drill a passage, otherwise you drill vagueness. Either way, we reap what we sow.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Study freedom. Freedom of movement, freedom of imagination, freedom from fear. This is what is in great playing of all kinds. The irony of course is that freedom is already within us, but we block ourselves from it more often than not.

When most people being to play music, it's a joyous challenge. We feel free to explore it, to make mistakes, to try new things. Over time, we learn rules, and they begin to constrict our freedom. We learn what is so-called "bad" and "good" and focus on judgement rather than playing. Let yourself play and don't worry about what happens - just play. Practice that mental state. When I see the children play in the park near me, they play freely. If they fall, they fall - and then get up and keep playing just as hard as before. That is freedom.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Photos of my Studio

I took some photos of my teaching studio and put them on flickr. I coudn't help take a few extra photos of the beautiful painting by Paula Nizamas, a Chicago artist that I greatly admire. The painting is called "Oasis of Visions" - a wonderful title for my little studio.

Classical Guitar Teaching Studio in New York

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Playing Meditation

Great playing and deep meditation is the same. The mind goes quiet, and observation of the self deepens. Notice this artist - not his hands, but his mind. Is his mind busy making judgements about his playing? Is he worried about what other people will think of his playing? Or is he simply observing his hands peacefully?

Now the real question is - Does his mind become quiet and focused because of his awesome physical technique? Or - Does his awesome physical technique come from a quiet and focused mind?