Mental Focus
Posted by Chase Sanborn

As we focus on our bodies when playing the instrument, we often forget the crucial role of the brain. 15 minutes of practice time with full concentration produces better results than an hour of mindless, repetitive practicing. Here are some tips for achieving mental focus:

• A metronome insists on accurate rhythm. It also helps coordinate all the muscles involved with an initial attack or a change of pitch.
• A tuner reminds you to pay attention to the pitch placement of each note. Trying to hold the visual display steady develops breath control.
• Recorded ‘drones’ provide an aural pitch reference, a sort of intervallic ‘guide post’.
• Mirrors help you concentrate on proper posture and effective embouchure manipulation.
• Record your practice session. Listen critically.
• Practice small sections of music with many repeats. Strive for technical improvement and enhanced musical expression.
• Practice in short blocks of time. Concentrate!
• Slow down! Slow, careful practice generates maximum improvement.
• Subdue room lighting. Minimize distractions.
• Picture a bulls-eye target on each note. Aim for the dead center. When you miss, determine the cause. (Too high? Too low?) Consciously adjust your aim on the next attempt.
• When you miss a note, stop and determine what you were thinking about. Often you’ll find your mind is on notes that have happened already, or notes to come, or something else altogether. Each note requires your full attention.
• Be as aware of reduced mental focus as you are of tired lips. Work your mind as hard as your body, and provide adequate rest time for both.

Chase Sanborn

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