- - Increase focus
- - Centre your attention
- - Practise more efficiently
This exercise can be used to work on almost anything; a passage, a specific technique, as a warm up etc. Whatever it is you’re working at, pick ONE element of your playing to focus on. Be as specific and simple as you can; e.g. focus on just your wrist, rather than your whole arm as you’re bowing.
Examples of focus points:
- The feeling of the bow hairs on the string
- The feeling of your elbow/shoulder/wrist moving through the air
- The weight of the instrument in your hand
- The muscles in your jaw as you breathe
- The contact between your lips and your mouthpiece/reed
- The position of your head while playing
- The movement of your fingers during bow changes
Once you’ve picked your focus point, start playing and put all of your attention onto that one element. Nothing else matters. If you notice a mistake or maybe tension somewhere else in the body, note it down for later, and go back to your current focus point.
At the beginning you are going to get distracted and lose focus often, so when that happens just let go of the distraction and move your attention back to your focus point. Close your eyes if it helps.
This exercise can be done actively or passively. Active is when you’re working with an intention (e.g. having non-stop vibrato in a passage), and passive is when you’re just observing (e.g. how the shoulder moves during up bows). For example:
ACTIVE: I notice that my sound is poor when changing bows at the frog, so I focus on the feeling of the weight of the bow on the string, letting my hand automatically make adjustments.
PASSIVE: I’ve seen something odd is happening on down bows, and I think the issue might be with my elbow. I decide to play again, closing my eyes and observing how my elbow feels as it moves. This helps me notice that it is suddenly tensing at a spot I’d never seen before, so now I can continue focussing on it, but this time with the intention of moving it smoothly. I now deserve to eat an entire chocolate cake.
Anybody who has done any sort of meditation or mindfulness practise will be familiar with this kind of pinpoint focus; all we’re doing here is adding elements that focus on our playing. Just make sure you focus on ONE thing at a time, rather than jumping back and forth between points. As musicians we think we can (or should) multitask and concentrate on 2 or 3 elements at a time, but in truth our brains are only capable of focussing on one task and switching to another, so it’s far more effective to choose one thing and stick with it. Then, once you’re happy, you can consciously switch to the next focus point. :)