Do you have trouble staying focused during piano practice? Does your mind tend to wander? Then read this article where I give 10 tips to have better focus.
Concentrating for a long time is tough, especially these days when we are bombarded with distractions. But if we want to get work done and improve on our playing, we have to be able to focus. So how do we do that?
In this article, I’m going to give you 10 tips to help you stay focused in the practice room.
Tip #1: Remove distractions
First things first, make sure your environment in which you practice is free of noise and distractions. Put your phone away (even better if out of sight) and practise at a time when there is the least amount of noise from your family members and your neighbours. If you own a digital piano, put your headphones on if you need to.
Tip #2: Be intentional
Before you start, have a few goals in mind. Decide on what you’re going to practise (the more specific the better) and for how long. Choose goals that stretch yourself a bit but not too much.
For example, you could decide on starting with 15 minutes of warm-up exercises (pick exercises that are related to your current repertoire), 15 minutes of sight-reading (of course!), and 30 minutes on specific sections of a piece you’re working on.
Tip #3: Break up your practice
Use the Pomodoro Technique to break up your practice. In case you don’t know, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo where you set a timer to break down a task into 25-minute sessions (called “pomodoros”), separated by 5-minute breaks. This method is effective because it allows the brain to recharge frequently and better perform during the Pomodoro sessions.
This is the exact technique I used to write this blog post!
Tip #4: Take breaks
Taking regular breaks is crucial. During the breaks, you can stretch your legs, walk around the room, make yourself a cup of tea, have a snack, get some laundry done, etc. Anything to give your mind a rest.
Tip #5: Practise at an optimal time
Some people focus better in the morning, while others prefer in the evening. If you’re not sure when your focus is best, spend the next week paying attention to your energy levels and your mood swings. This will help you work out your optimal time for practising.
Tip #6: Build your focus gradually
If you have trouble focusing, start by trying to stay focused for 5 minutes, then extend to 7 minutes, then 10, and so on. The important thing is to notice when your focus is waning and to either redirect your focus or take a break. There’s no need to keep practising if you feel your focus waver.
Tip #7: Practise mindfulness
According to this experiment, people who practise mindfulness have better concentration. This can be in the form of meditation, yoga, or simply sitting somewhere quiet and being present.
Tip #8: Concentrate on one thing at a time
When working on a passage, decide on what you’re going to focus on. Will it be your timing, phrasing, expression, articulation? If you try to focus on everything at once, you probably won’t be able to improve on anything.
Tip #9: Diversify
Avoid mindless repetition at all cost. The moment you stop involving your brain, it will start to wander and all your efforts will be futile, especially if you are repeating a passage with mistakes. Instead, diversify your practice. Here are a few ideas:
- Move on to another piece
- Work intently on a small section of a piece
- Sit away from the piano and practice mentally
- Practise performing by playing a piece all the way through
- Work on memorising a section
- Analyse your score
- Listen to professional recordings, or better still, record yourself and listen back!
Practice doesn’t have to look the same every day. In fact, make it look different every day!
Tip #10: Be aware
To be focused is to be aware, to pay attention.
Be aware of how your body feels, whether it is tense or relaxed. Pay attention to your breathing. Listen to the sounds you’re making. Be aware of any moments of hesitation. Notice if a fingering feels awkward or if some notes are not coming out clearly.
To keep you focused on the task at hand, keep asking yourself questions. “Was that how I wanted it to sound?” “Why did I mess up this passage again?” “How can I make this passage softer?”
Those are my tips to help you stay focused in your piano practice. What do YOU do to stay focused? Let me know in the comments.