Wouldn’t it be nice if we could always be perfectly focused on what we’re doing without any outside distractions? Of course, we all know that doesn’t always happen. And sometimes it doesn’t happen at pretty important times. Like when you’re playing guitar… on stage… in front of hundreds (thousands!) of people.
As a beginning guitarist, you’ll often hear the advice to practice in a quiet place where no one will bother you and you can concentrate on what you’re doing. And make no mistake about it, that’s super important. You have a lot of focus on while you’re getting your hands in shape.
So in addition to your focused practice, I suggest some unfocused guitar practice too. That means two things here. First, that can mean just sit down and play for awhile with no particular goals in mind. Outside of your normal practice time, just grab your guitar and wail to the best of your ability and just enjoy playing. After all, that’s why we learn in the first place, right? Call it enjoying the fruits of your labor.
The second meaning here is to do some focused practice while there are distractions happening. This will give your brain some great exercise in filtering out the world’s randomness and being able to play in a chaotic atmosphere.
Here’s a couple ways to try this out:
1. If the house is noisy (ie. dogs barking, kids crying, roommate watching TV way to loud) don’t close your door and shut it out. Try and play over it.
2. Sit yourself in front of that TV and try to tune it out as you play. Alternately (and this is great for ear training), try to play along to the score of whatever you’re watching. If there’s no score, create your own in real time. This also works great with the radio or some other music playing. Either play along or attempt to play something else completely.
3. Get a friend who plays an instrument and have them play a completely different song from what you’re playing. I was forced into that situation years ago when I was taking flute lessons down the hall from someone else taking drum lessons. Bach vs Rock was tough to concentrate on.
4. Get out of your comfort zone altogether. Always practicing in the same room is great because you’ll feel safe and comfortable. But getting into a new environment can throw you off your game quick. So take your guitar out and sit next to a busy street and play. Years ago there was a drummer near my house who set his kit up next to the freeway and played for hours. The more different environments you play in, the less you’ll be thrown at a new venue or just your friend’s house when he asks you to play something.
Anything that challenges your concentration will actually strengthen your focus and you’ll learn how to divide your attention when needed without falling off your guitar groove.
Got some other good ideas for unfocused practicing scenarios? Leave them in a comment below!
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