Not in the mood to practice?

productivity and attention

So its a fairly well known concept that to be good at something you have to do it a lot. This is not always easy to do. Focus often suffers for a number of reasons.

  • Tiredness
  • Motivation
  • Complexity
  • Fear

These are the few that I came up with as I am tired, not unmotivated but challenged by the complexity of blogging and fearful of putting it out there. Well the blog has been here quite awhile and I am now earnestly making a go of it. Fear has been supplanted by momentum as I just started a you tube channel, ‘guitarbeau’s youtube channel’ posted a music video for a contest submission, and directed viewers to this site so… I have motivation to make it worth the trip, as well as some momentum which some have argued is more important than motivation.

Just get started and what follows is a result in the direction one is going. Obviously results may vary depending on the amount of interest and attention given to the effort, but it will stimulate focus by ‘just doing it’ or ‘do or do not, ‘there is no try’ if you prefer to get your act going via quotes from pseudo otherworldly guru’s! There is in fact a ‘try’ just like there is a, ‘taste it you might like it?’ So as this is about practicing a musical instrument when unmotivated or unfocused read on.

Try it with your eyes closed

So I maintain a schedule for practice or try to, it is sometimes difficult to get with my self imposed program. But learning music is a must do for me, as is improving my ability on the guitar and keyboard. In a previous post I mentioned and referenced an article that made some fine suggestions for improving the ability to learn, As the subheading here suggests I found another way to make that happen as well as find a new way to obtain focus on the effort of musical education and improvement.

Its not that difficult

I was struggling to get going one morning so I thought I’d feel my way around the keyboard and see how much muscle memory had become apart of my skill set. Turns out, it was quite a bit. Not that I am flying through the scales at break neck speed, even with my eyes open. But I can find the way with my fingers and ears better than anticipated or that I thought I’d remember.

but wait there’s more

Not only did I impress myself with this version of practice but discovered a component to scale sequences that I had not encountered before. Going through the cycle of fifths and corresponding harmonic and melodic minors related to each I discovered the relative minor scale of the major can lead to the next scale degree in the cycle of fifths.

Briefly and as it relates to the keyboard

Starting with the C major scale and then playing the relative A minor scales, harmonic and melodic, the G major, the fifth from the C, of course is found left of the A (minor), making it easier to find “in the dark” so to speak. G major then is related to E minor or vice versa left of which is the D which is the fifth from the G, got it? And so it went until I reached the scales that for me still require a visual reference from which finger to begin so back to my chart I go to get um, my footing!?

In summation

So the crux of the matter is, focus can be started many ways, and while practicing with your eyes closed might seem daunting to try at first, it can yield beneficial results when done with the intention to improve our musical proficiency. As can just about any endeavor. Just get doing it, or not.

Scales are…

Scales are a necessary component of learning to play a musical instrument. They can be challenging to maintain in a practice regimen because they remain constant and over time can become boring to play.

I read recently that a way to improve your ability to learn a new skill rapidly is to practice it ever so slightly differently. This it is said, can provoke the brain to internalize the information more readily and make it easier to access.

I wondered how this could be applied to scales. As mentioned they are somewhat static in their execution even though they are fingered differently when played in different keys and/or on different strings. They are still seemingly a straight forward and/or backwards exercise, as is also an option.

Then I realized there are alternatives to playing scales and that by using the above suggestion, to vary ones approach to the exercise slightly, can make it more easily understood and internalized and become an integral and useful part of ones musical vocabulary.

I have inadvertently found myself taking this approach one step further, as I struggle to commit new scales to memory. I alternate the note order again slightly. Moving forward 1 step or key and then back, and then forward again this time to the note 2 steps above the previous one and then back 1 step, being careful to use the fingers my scale chart says to use to play the scale in a straight forward way. Some may know this to be a difficult maneuver because of the need to cross certain fingers over or under as one makes their way through the scale.

Perhaps a more readily understandable description of this alternate scale practice method would be to simply play each of the notes in the scale 2 or more times before advancing to the next note. This can also be applied with the follow the leader approach mentioned earlier. This has proven useful in improving my ability. As has practicing regularly, which cannot be over stated.

Video Examples

Here are some video examples of these exercises as they may not be entirely understood just by way of my explanation, as a video supplants a 1000 words!?

Follow the Leader Left leading right hand 2 octaves above and 1/8th note after C Major
Alternate Way to Play a Scale

I hope anyone reading this will find something of use in my efforts to encourage. Please leave a comment if you wish.