Concentration

In order to develop as an artist, you must be able to direct your concentration to a single point of focus. You must learn to get your mind to stay on that focus without wandering for quite a while. You must learn to probe deeply into your concentration so that it steadies and becomes alive in each moment, rather than have it put you to sleep.

Many people do not understand the purpose of practice. They mistakenly think that “running through things” is practicing. They think “warming up the voice” is all there is to do. Most people want to just “get to the songs” as quickly as possible. Vocal exercises are boring and to be endured and the ones used don’t really matter. One is just as good as another, more or less. Go higher, go lower, get softer, get louder, speed up, slow down, open your mouth, close your mouth, breath low. Some version of this is what most people usually have. Who wouldn’t be bored with that?

If you do not know how to probe deeply into vocal practice, by directing your attention to the small details of what is happening musically, physically and mentally, you are not really practicing, you are, mostly, wasting time while making voiced sounds. If you cannot harness your mind to the tasks at hand in the present moment, you have to learn, because if you do not, you will never be able to direct your attention to something helpful.

Concentration is an act of will. It doesn’t happen to you from outside. It might be that something external catches your attention briefly, but if you really are going to sustain your one-pointed focus, you cannot depend on flashy experiences to be always available to substitute for your own determination to keep your mind on the goal at hand.

Many young people do not understand how to concentrate at all. The images on TV go by very quickly. They multi-task, they are continuously distracted. Remind your students that they must learn to concentrate before they can expect to improve their abilities. It seems like this would be obvious but many people do not know how to concentrate on anything for longer than 5 minutes. That’s not long enough to do any good.

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