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#2053310 - 03/24/13 07:38 AM Why can't I focus?  
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casinitaly Offline

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I'm trying to record 2 pieces. No, make that I WAS trying to record. I gave up after repeated botch-ups.

Most of the errors were in the second half of the pieces, often near the end. Sometimes, I have no doubt, because of the thought that creeps into my mind "ah, I think I'm going to make it"... and then it crumbles.

I don't seem to be able to sustain focus - and let's face it- my pieces are NOT long and complicated. They're just right for my ability.

What are techniques you use for improving your focus and concentration. Clearly I'm missing something.

grrrrrr.

Suggestions very welcome!!


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#2053317 - 03/24/13 07:52 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Do a SEARCH on these words ... red dot record anxiety panic


Use the SEARCH window in the LEFT Column of your screen on Piano World.



Don

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#2053325 - 03/24/13 08:03 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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I have the exact same problem. Every time I try to record, something goes wrong because, suddenly, I get nervous when I start to record. That sucks, because I can't record properly. And what pisses me off is all the mistakes I make are near the end.

Everytime I start to record the thought of "I can't make mistakes" overcome my mind or when things are going right I think "I'm making it. This is going to work" and then comes thousands of mistakes.

Last edited by ThePianistWay; 03/24/13 08:14 AM.

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#2053326 - 03/24/13 08:05 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Red dot syndrome always creeps up, but I find a few things help me when I try to record:
- Have the piece learned. Any shaky parts will almost always collapse when recording, or as I had yesterday, when playing for friends.
- When you keep making mistakes and get annoyed, pause briefly. Calm down, collect yourself, sip some water or tea, and only then start over.
- If you really can't concentrate, just stop. Try again another time. We all have good days and bad days.
- It is probably a bad idea to record when you just woke up, got back from work, just ate food or are otherwise tired. Focus takes energy.
- It has been said that recording more often makes it easier. I don't record enough.

Edit:
- It's okay to make mistakes. You HAVE to allow yourself some mistakes, or you get too stressed. Even playing through horribly mistakes may be useful. If nothing else, you can later analyse what went wrong; or practise the problem areas separately; or decide it wasn't so bad after all and that one take is decent enough to post to the piano bar.

Last edited by Allard; 03/24/13 08:08 AM.

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#2053328 - 03/24/13 08:11 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Thanks everyone for the replies.

I should clarify that today the irritation is because of recording. I'm willing to acknowledge and accept some nervousness because of the red dot, but I feel it is perhaps more than just a bit of performance anxiety and I have to find a way to improve my concentration.

Allard - you're very right about quitting before getting to frustrated (I did 3 too many tries today!!!) - and also not doing it late in the day. Early in the day is generally good for me, or mid-day. Any time after 6 there's just no point.

As for getting over the red dot complex I have been working at recording more so that it is more routine and not such a big deal. I also imagine that I'm just playing for someone who'll be particularly forgiving (Mom usually comes to mind smile ) to help me relax.

I never though I had a particularly short attention span, but now I'm really wondering.



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#2053336 - 03/24/13 08:29 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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I seem to be having the same problem with staying focused and it's not just when I am recording something. I record all my lessons and often just leave the recorer on during some practice sessions. During the past 2 years, I have chosen to play something for the adult recital that is only 2 pages. The piece I would like to play this year is 7 pages when you include the repeats and I can't seem to get to the end without mistakes. It is Chopin's Waltz in B minor so technically it's easier than some of my other pices. Musically, it's a differemt story to get the expression in it. My teacher has said he wants me to make him cry when I play this piece. I have it memorized both hands seperate as well as together and analyzed. I am not forgetting it but seem to lose my concentration before it is over. Yes, I do the same thing and think, I'm going to make it to the end and then I flub it up. I have practiced many parts alone and then put measures before and after together so I don't think the problem is any certain part as the mistakes come in random partsd and not always the same. I'll play the piece fine and then mess up when it repeats.


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#2053338 - 03/24/13 08:32 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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I'd recommend life style change. A hunter-gatherer diet suits me best.

#2053343 - 03/24/13 08:43 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Originally Posted by casinitaly

What are techniques you use for improving your focus and concentration.


Lately, instead of trying to ignore every distraction, I have switched to working on reducing the disruption that the distraction causes me. It is as though I say to myself, "yes, ok. there was a siren (or a wrong note, or a cat, or a reflection from outside). now get back to work'

But to make it faster:
Siren, okay, play

until the distraction becomes only a click
playing along/click/playing along

That's a lousy explanation. Brewer heard a meditation instruction years ago which states it quite simply, "Note the distraction and resume breathing."




Having power is not nearly as important as what you choose to do with it.
– Roald Dahl

#2053344 - 03/24/13 08:44 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: zillybug]  
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Cheryl,

I don't know if this will work,but you might try recording just the second half of the piece. Or maybe record it backwards....second half,then first half. All this is just to get your brain over the hump of self doubt.

Whatever you do,give yourself a break, everyone struggles to get clean performances.


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#2053356 - 03/24/13 09:18 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: JimF]  
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I agree with the advice that if you do not get it in the first few tries, stop trying for a while. I also have had the same problem of getting near the end and then screwing up. I have even missed the very last note because I think I have nailed it! The problem is not because of sketchy areas, it is because I know the recorder is running. So, now, I record everyday in attempt to make it no big deal. I record everything - big pieces and little pieces. I won't say it has completely cured the problem, but it is way better. I record practice runs of sections, half tempo runs, everything. I forget that the recorder is running, relax, and just play. (I go through a lot of batteries. smile )

Another thing that happens to me when I am anxious, either recording or playing for others, is I forget to breathe. I will hold my breath in tricky spots, and then crash and burn. It is hard to focus if you are out of air. My teacher noted this and reminds me to breathe when she sees I am seizing up. She even has suggested using breathing as a means of focussing and reducing anxiety. It seems to help.

Last edited by SwissMS; 03/24/13 09:26 AM.
#2053362 - 03/24/13 09:35 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Red dot is a killer. But you say youre working on 2 pieces. I would concentrate on one piece until you nail it. Then go Yes, have a drink, kick back and bask in the glory. Oh and share.


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#2053363 - 03/24/13 09:35 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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chopin_r_us.... interesting idea but I don't think that's going to happen, thanks.

Malkin - that certainly sounds like it is worth a try - "go with the flow" (seems it could be applicable to other aspects of life too!!!)

Jim, that could be worth a try too. Maybe a few successful attempts on the second half of xyz would do the trick....As for being too hard on myself - well..... sometimes. I try to keep my expectations realistic though - I really do think I should be able to get through these pieces.

SwissMS - you are so right about the breathing. I find I'm ok when I'm just "playing" but as soon as I start to record, I stop breathing properly. Something else to focus on.

Zillybug- thanks for sharing that you've got the same sort of problem - I'll share the advice here with you smile smile

Larry - you posted just as I did so I've come back to edit.... Yes, I've got two pieces on the go but I started one way before the other - I'm not still "studying" the pieces. I figured I was done with the work and it was time to record. I was only going to do one today - it didn't go well, so I tried the other - it didn't go well and I packed it up and came here to whine a bit smile


I'll try some of these ideas over the next little while, and up the recording to increase comfort level. I'll also talk to my teacher about it as I think there has to be a way to get in the "Zone" you hear so many folks talking about .



Last edited by casinitaly; 03/24/13 09:38 AM. Reason: added comment

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#2053365 - 03/24/13 09:37 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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You are like me, Cheryl, you have too much on your mind at any given time... smile

If it is any consolation, I don't think I've ever played a tune all the way through without some kind of bobble... I've accepted my fate. smile

You are making tremendous progress with your playing, Cheryl! Keep it up, my friend from across the big pond!

Ricky-J smile


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#2053366 - 03/24/13 09:39 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Thanks Ricky-J - If I could play as lightheartedly as dynamically as you do , I would feel more relaxed about some bobbles.

smile I appreciate the encouragement.


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#2053368 - 03/24/13 09:43 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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I find recording incredibly difficult (so far only guitar, no room to record the keyboard yet). I feel very self conscious and can only do it if I'm alone!


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#2053371 - 03/24/13 09:52 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Don't feel bad. Neither can I


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#2053379 - 03/24/13 10:07 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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This is one of the biggest problems that adults have. They think too much. Too easily distracted. After all, you have to be when you're used to driving cars. Other reasons also. We're used to having to multitask our minds.
My teacher agrees with this. Also the book I've been mentioning on "The Art of Practicing" talks about this. In the book, she gets into yoga and meditation. That does a bunch to help you be able to focus when you want to. I do want to mention the meditation part. That is why so many people love to run marathons. It's their state of mind. Cannot think as clearly, fast, and focused as when in that state of mind of running long slow distance.

I also think myself this problem lies in the nervous system. The autonomic mind. The base mind. Here are some things I work on. They also just plain make me younger.
Mobility work... It is a fact that if you go through all six ways you can move. One at a time. Beginning to end. That will wipe your nervous system clean. Ever have something bugging you? Some idiot yelled something at you and it keeps coming back? Mobility work will wipe that out. Mobility helps you to take control of your autonomic mind. Not it control you. It controlling you is easily exampled in so many idiot young men who are aggressive and want to fight. They are controlled. There is a ton a person can get out of mobility work. Mainly it just plain makes you younger. Literally.
Yoga is really good also.
Just plain exercise helps. Strength and cardio work. Helps a ton to get blood flowing. Be healthier. Do it smart and you don't have to become a gym rat. You can get a whole lot out of a little time by making sure you do Mobility, Strength, then Yoga. It gets results.


Ron
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The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon
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#2053389 - 03/24/13 10:34 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Ron - I had no idea what you were talking about with Mobility so I googled it..now I'm doing some research.

I've never tried yoga - and when I've tried meditation, I either can't stay focused (surprise! lol) ...or I fall asleep.

Larry and FindingNemo2010...I guess we're in the same boat!


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#2053395 - 03/24/13 10:54 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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A few thoughts.

1) I haven't tried this, but it might be worthwhile. Record everything when you practice. Just delete the files after. If you are always recording everything you practice then you'll eventually just forget about the fact that you're being recorded and the stress levels will (one hopes) dissipate. If you make recording your pieces a special event, it seems likely to me that just makes the process more stressful. Also, if you happen to get in the zone while practicing and have that perfect performance, you'll have it recorded. smile

2) Practice more. I think people underestimate how much practice it takes to really master a song, even a simple song. Just because you can play a song well doesn't mean you've mastered it. My favorite piano quote (stolen from someone's sig here) is basically, "Don't practice until you can get it right, practice until you can't get it wrong."

3) Yoga is highly recommended, or if you can find a good teacher, Tai Chi Chuan might be even better. If you can find a teacher who knows the whole system, Tai Chi is also a great system of self defense.



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#2053397 - 03/24/13 10:55 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Try not to take yourself so seriously. It doesn't matter if you fluff a recording you're not recording for posterity or for magnificent acclaim from an Albert Hall audience. Just try treating it as a joke and realise you can always delete and start again. Try having a laugh about any mistake you make and then just try again.

#2053398 - 03/24/13 10:55 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Cas...You might google Scott Sonnon. He is who I learn from. Don't be put off that he is a fighter. Has much on fighting. He teaches much on training. He considers Mobility the most important thing anyone can do. It is the only thing he wants people to do everyday. Look at his: Intu flow. A much more involved program of his that focuses on mobility is Primal Stress...it is a bunch. The yoga he teaches is prasara yoga...the highest form of yoga...end up creating your own yoga.
I can understand on meditation. I can only relate to it in jogging. If you choose to start running. Beware and use much mobility and yoga to offset the lower half of the core of you body turning into a rock.

EDIT: Seriously Cas... My suggestion is to do the Intu-Flow (mobility). It will do a ton for you. If that's all you do. You'll be better off than 99% of people. Including the exercise junkies. It will make you feel like moving. Like doing more. It all comes back down to good focus for your playing.

Last edited by rnaple; 03/24/13 11:24 AM.

Ron
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#2053431 - 03/24/13 11:53 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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cas, I'm so glad you asked this question. I had tried doing more of the "5x without a mistake as slow as you need to" and frankly, while it is obvious to me it would help immensely in learning things faster and better than I do, my temperment ends up running out of steam in a couple of days, and then I can't practice, or even play, at all. It's not the way I work. So I think Ron's post might be a real help in understanding for me -

altho I will have to say that at 67 I have a pretty good idea of how I work, so I am fairly content with my progress. I had just wanted some way to take maybe less than 3 months to get a piece to repertoire - I mean, I play 32-bar or so pop pieces laugh I just wanted to not bore my senior gig folks to pieces with the same tunes over and over. So I'm looking more for tweaks than major overhauls - but I think body awareness is key for me, and Ron's stuff looks like it may add to that for me.

But at the minute I have no answers, other than working with who you are. When I accept that and work the way I am the errors don't bother me - as someone else said, note and no interference.

But I think, much as it might work for others, the "no errors and as slow as you need to" is not going to be the way forward for me. I think it's a great idea, and I do not dismiss it for me lightly, but I don't work that way. I think there are some who might use "I don't work that way" as an excuse laugh but I've played a lot over the last 3 or 4 years, and I've come to a stop. I do have some major distractions over the last 3 months, but I'm going to look at the mobility stuff. That might even lead to being able to do the 5x (or 3, or whatever) because it will give me another way into the awareness!

So thanks again for asking, and thanks Ron for a possible way forward.

This place is great.

Cathy


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#2053432 - 03/24/13 11:54 AM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Originally Posted by casinitaly
chopin_r_us.... interesting idea but I don't think that's going to happen, thanks.
Damn, and I had the bear skins and clubs all made up!

#2053450 - 03/24/13 12:19 PM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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This thread is full of great advice! I have that same problem - can play all the way through with no terrible errors, but when recording I think my nerves or other distractions interfere. I am glad that casinitaly started this topic, and also that so many have shared their suggestions for overcoming this problem!

#2053464 - 03/24/13 12:37 PM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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If you record when you practice all the time, you will forget the red dot and eventually get a good recording. Just edit it out.

I should do it myself.

#2053479 - 03/24/13 01:21 PM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: jotur]  
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Originally Posted by jotur
...
So thanks again for asking, and thanks Ron for a possible way forward.

This place is great.

Cathy


I appreciate the thanks. I just want to add to not expect quick changes with this mobility. It comes slow. I would suggest to do it for a year. Then decide how much good it is doing you. I think you will be impressed.

Just one example of me:
I used to have sinus headaches alot. Also when they said to try breathing through your nose when you run. I thought: Surely you jest.
Well...I had been doing this mobility for about 6 months. I was doing what he calls: Stevie's. That's moving your head like Stevie Wonder. Something popped in my head. My eyesight was better. My hearing was better. My sense of balance was much stronger. My sinuses had opened up. I no longer have sinus headaches. I also can easily run breathing through my nose.

I have no financial interest whatsoever with Scott. I'm just a very happy student.



Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon
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#2053481 - 03/24/13 01:24 PM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Why cant I focus? is an interesting question.

When you play a piece, you have to play it in a relaxed fashion. To play a piece in a relaxed fashion, you have to play it 20 beats high than you want to play it.

You have not said what speed you want to play it at or what speed you can play it at in a relaxed fashion.

I have been playing my pieces, 60 of them, that I have learned a year ago and I play them almost everyday. I know them well, I play them well and I am relaxed when I play them because I played at least 30 times a time a month and twice a day, so 120 times a month for the entire year.

Remember, when you play a piece, you must not make ANY mistakes. None. When you play the piano, you have to play without any mistakes. If you have mistakes, then you are playing the piece TOO FAST.

Understand that to learn a piece, you have to crawl through the piece very, very slowly without mistakes and then you have to play the piece without mistakes for many, many, many months everyday without mistakes.

Enjoy the journey.

#2053513 - 03/24/13 02:13 PM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: rnaple]  
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Santa Fe, NM
Originally Posted by rnaple
Originally Posted by jotur
...
So thanks again for asking, and thanks Ron for a possible way forward.

This place is great.

Cathy


I appreciate the thanks. I just want to add to not expect quick changes with this mobility. It comes slow. I would suggest to do it for a year.


I think this is good advice. There are many things that take awhile before your brain/body finally make the "flip" or the wake-up comes, or whatever. Good nutrition, athletics/body awareness, playing the piano smile

Cathy


Cathy
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Practice like you are the worst; play like you are the best - anonymous
#2053534 - 03/24/13 03:05 PM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: Michael_99]  
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Allard  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2012
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Netherlands
Originally Posted by Michael_99
I have been playing my pieces, 60 of them, that I have learned a year ago and I play them almost everyday. I know them well, I play them well and I am relaxed when I play them because I played at least 30 times a time a month and twice a day, so 120 times a month for the entire year.

60 pieces is an impressive repertoire. I've no idea where to find the five hours to repeat all that every day, if my repertoire ever extended to 60 songs.


David Lanz - Skyline Firedance Suite
Nobuo Uematsu - Final Fantasy 7 Main Theme
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#2053701 - 03/24/13 09:05 PM Re: Why can't I focus? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Stubbie  Offline
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Midwest USA
This happens to me all the time. Playin' along just doing fine, realize I'm doing fine, then--shazaam! Hello screw-ups!

I have no idea how to fix this self-awareness jinx. I'm not sure multiple exposures to the offending self-awareness or red dot or what-have-you will suffice to fix it. Telling yourself not to think about how you're doing pretty much guaranties you'll think about it.

I wonder if certain personality types are more prone to this than others. Some people thrive on making their music in public (recording is a proxy for playing in public) and others just--don't.


The best advice so far, imo, is to stop trying after a time or two. Any more than that and you bake in the jinx.


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