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.


Dominic Rivron said...

Interesting. People think practising is learning the notes. A better way of looking is to say one learns the notes in order to practise.
I think in our culture we've become too accustomed to the idea that a musician's job is to translate dots on a page into noises! In fact, as with actors remembering their lines, translating those dots is just a first step. We have to be able to play the music as if we simply know it, and know it so well that we can explore its expressive demands.

halve regal king said...

you can also say that the study of music is ultimately the study of oneself. They are the same.

thank you for the comment Dominic.


Paul said...

That's an interesting observation as well Kevin; perhaps one could say that it's ulimately the expression of oneself. I came up through pop/folk/rock in the 60's/70's and wrote, played and sang quite naturally expressing "self". A long study of classical guitar where the tradition of respect for the author allied to the difficulty of the instrument suppressed that for many years; it's only lately that the freedom is returning. But it's still about balance between the internal and external: in my case it's no coincidence that this feeling of freedom has reappeared as my playing has reached a standard where I'm able to realise physically what I'm feeling emotionally and intellectually and I think there is a symbiosis that can't be ignored.