Remaining focused during prolonged practice sessions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Nashrakh, Aug 21, 2017.

  1. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I've recently noticed that my mind starts to wander after a while of practicing (between an hour and 90 minutes). I'll be working on my routine, and at some point I just can't stay focused. I may have a hard time following sheet music, maybe start noodling. After a small break, I do a bit better again.

    I think it may have something to do with my routine heavily relying on printed music. I'm currently working out of a book for sight-reading, the Miles Davis omnibook, and Simandl etudes, plus scale and arpeggio exercises. Maybe all the reading tires me out mentally. I've never had this kind of problem when I used to just work on songs and rhythms, but I'm dedicated to step up my game.

    Adam Neely has a recorded live stream on his YT channel in which he practices scales for four or five hours straight... Geez! That must take superhuman powers of concentration.

    How do you cope with this problem? Is it something you have to ease yourself into, or can you recommend anything that gets you focused again?

  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    It's best to take a break after an hour or so. After that, the brain cries out..."too much information !!" ;) Take a short break and come back to it.

    Don't take my word for it. Check out Carol Kaye's tips here (see tip number 49).

    The Official Carol Kaye Web Site
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  3. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    I set a timer. Generally I'll start with 20 minutes from a Berklee Jazz Composition book, then about 36 minutes running scalar ideas at about 6 minutes per key, 16 minutes working on a Hadrien Feraud inspired 4 finger right hand groove/exercise, 16 minutes slapping, 8 minutes doing Afro/Cuban grooves with just the clave, then 8 minutes doing it with a drum machine pattern. The key is to not practice one thing long enough to get bored with it.

    Rev J
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  4. Remember your lessons in school normally ran 50 minutes then you went to another class. Lab being the only one that went past this 50 minute mark. There is a reason for this. We can concentrate on one subject for about 45 to 50 minutes and then our mind starts to wonder.....

    After 45 minutes take a 15 minute break then go back for some more. You can do this all day long if you take those 15 minute breaks.

    Good luck.
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  5. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Thanks for the input everyone, I guess breaks are a good idea after all.

    I usually have some sort of "schedule" too, 15 minutes of this, 20 minutes of that... My problem seems to be that 15 or 20 minutes are over before you know it, and I feel like I haven't accomplished much. So I give myself another 5 or 10. And in the blink of an eye, the first hour flew by.

    This may actually be a big factor in mental fatigue, thanks for pointing that out. Gotta be more disciplined, I think.
  6. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Take a ten minutes break every 20 minutes when you do intense mental work.
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  7. jusca


    Sep 11, 2013
    Fatigue after an bour is perfectly normal as everyone else has said. That's good you recognized you were feeling better after a break. You knew the answer to your question all along. ;)
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  8. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    Also remember that you are making progress whether you notice it or not. Eventually you may hit a point where you say to yourself "I remember when this was difficult."

    Rev J
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2017
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  9. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    IMHO nearly anyone can play for 4 or 5 hours, but making that time productive is the real challenge. Your brain can get tired just like any other part of you. Take care of it, give it a little rest. A ten minute break every hour is no real loss of practice time and makes the 50 minutes worth so much more.
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