A constant struggle for performing artists is trying to balance all the responsibilities in life while at the same time working to develop your craft. This challenge can be especially heightened when you’re just starting out, and learning to play, but haven’t figured out how to incorporate it with your daily life yet.
Kids running around, dogs barking, honey-do lists, household chores, office deadlines, personal tasks, etc., etc., are real things that must be attended to. And while all that stuff is uber important, it ultimately all rolls in to one big distraction from playing guitar. Of course, this does not mean you can avoid any of it, it just means you need to find a consistent time in the day to practice AND, when practicing, you need to get in the zone.
What is “The Zone”?
It is easier to describe than define, so let’s consider those times when no doubt you’ve already been there.
You know those moments when the world around continues to spin, but you’re tuned out to it?… that’s when you’re in the Zone!
The days when the clock goes round and round and hours zip by but you’ve lost all concept of time?… you’re in the Zone!
Those times when you run at double-time to check off all the other items on your to-do list just to make more time to play? lol, welcome to the Zone! 🙂
As you can understand, getting in the Zone is more a state of mind then a physical venture, but there are still some things you can do to help you get there. Here are a few common ways a grown-up guitarist can get there:
- Create a separate and dedicated space to practice. Although I encourage you to practice every day no matter where you are, it can be incredibly difficult to get in the zone if you’re sprawled out on the couch as your spouse watches the Real Housewives or latest episode of CSI. Even if you’re not watching the tv, the fact that you’re in the same room with it just creates too much distraction.Perhaps it is not realistic to thing you can set up a whole room in the house to serve as your own personal studio, but nonetheless you can find a location that is separate from all the other noise and distractions. A corner of the living room does not qualify… not only are there things like TV (see above), but if your spouse and kids are used to hanging out there, they will always find ways to break your concentration and demand your attention. This is not their fault, of course, if you’re in the common shared space… you’ll never find the “zone” in a living room.
- Schedule time for when you are “Unavailable.” Those who work from home understand this one all to well, and it is a mantra that you should adopt for practice time as well. For the next __ seconds/minutes/hours I am not available. This means turn the phone off, close the door, log out of the computer, etc., and just be alone with you and the guitar. While others
may not understand your obsession with finding the Zone, they can at least appreciate if you give them a defined timeframe of when not to bother you.
- Start with the stuff you know. The best way to drift off to Zoneland is to ease down the road by strumming a few tunes you can nail with your eyes closed. Familiar stuff is easy, it’s relaxing, it’s fun; you can mess around with it but always find your way back. You can lock in and, most importantly, you’ve got a feel for if you’re loose and things are flowing well. Before you get ready to zone in on the new stuff, make sure you’re feeling the music.
- Play with headphones. Even if they’re just plugged in to your amp so you’re hearing your self play (incl. acoustic), headphones can really help bring your focus in. Headphones allow you to tune out any other noises or potential distractions. If you’re playing other music, it help you hear the sound clearer; or if you’re playing against yourself, it produces the sounds exactly as you are playing them (well or poorly 🙂 so you can gauge your performance much better.
- Play slow and deliberately. This is really just good practice advice, but very aptly applies to getting in the Zone. When you play written music slowly you focus in on the notes and apply the techniques properly. It take a lot of mental effort to read the music and produce the sounds you want, and that extra level of focus and attention will take you straight in to the Zone.
These are just some of the ways you can work to improve your focus and concentration when it comes to practicing guitar. They key is to take any steps necessary to avoid distractions. It’s just you and your guitar. The more you are able to spend dedicated, uninterrupted, time playing, the faster you will advance. I promise you that in the same amount of time it takes you to studying in a quiet reserved space, you’ll jump light-years ahead of the other guy who spends an hour of day trying to practice in front of the TV.
It’s about the time AND the focus.
It’s about getting in the Zone.
What do you do to get in the Zone? Please share! Comments can be posted below.