Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

This was a pleasant surprise for me, so I thought I would pass it along. A few weeks ago, I started doing a common deep-breathing/relaxation type exercise three times daily—"breakfast, lunch, and dinner"—and I think it has helped my playing a lot.

It’s simple enough: Inhale quickly through the nose, and exhale slowly through the mouth, while consciously trying to relax every muscle, and think only about breathing. At the bottom of the exhalation, pause for a second or two… then take another deep breath in, and repeat. Keep trying to do one where your hearbeat is the only motion, during that "slack tide" between breaths. No twitching, no random thoughts. It might take a few minutes to get there, but you can take your time, there’s no rush.

I think we spend a lot of our time charging ahead, striving to achieve something, and it gets to be a habit. Mostly a good one. But there are times when inner stillness is really what you need—so it makes sense to form a habit for that too. It comes in handy when you’re playing a tricky phrase, and need a micro-instant to collect yourself just before you tackle it. And, like a lot of things, that kind of instant-relaxation-on-demand seems to improve with practice.

I know it makes me sound like an old hippie moonbeam, but it does seem to be working, so there you go.

Any other natural relaxation techniques out there, for playing, and life in general? Might be good to know, especially during the stressful holiday season.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

natural relaxation? Does having a puff of a little somehting count?
:D
Interesting for sure. Meditation is useful to help calm down the mind I think. the body usually follows.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

I often spend long periods of time just staring into space trying to think of the start of some tune that I use to play…does that count……

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

….as long as you’re breathing deeply Free Reed; perfect! :D

That kind of thing is great Ray, I just never think of doing them. Ever. :) I’m glad that normal breathing doesn’t take any thought. There’s just so much to remember to do in life. ;)

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

Many people talk of the benefits of meditation to life in general, so why would it not improve our musical faculties as much as anything else. I’ve never had the patience to pursue it properly - probably due to lack of meditation.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

BTW Martin Hayes is a practising buddhist, I believe. But my guess is, Padraig O’Keeffe probably wasn’t. Take from that what you will.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

Hey, AB—I saw your 8-year-old "Relaxation" discussion here, while looking for a related discussion before starting a new one. (Has it worked? Is that drumkit-playing session leader still around?)

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

Let’s just say in this case the old codger put much too much effort into fading away, pulling away, just basking in being the bad-boy. He is still around & I need to visit him before it’s too late. His mandolin playing was great.
I need to suck it up & remind him. Remind myself!

Cheers, Rick, great topic.

;)

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Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

Such an important post, deep breathing is so important, it sends oxygen to the brain which calms and also helps the brain function better more efficiently.
Another beneficial thing for brain function is to drink lots of bottled water.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

I just do the breathing thing, myself. It’s not complicated.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

I just finished a workshop with the great Irish banjo player Enda Scahill at O’Flaherty’s Retreat. He spent a lot of time talking about the importance of relaxation and cited Effortless Mastery as worth reading.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

Rick, have a look at the website http://mindfulmusician.com. It’s all about music and meditation etc

I use mediation as the basis of my technique when it comes to playing Irish music. It helps me to concentrate fully, and in detail, on what I’m doing.

I also use something called the ‘Alexander Technique’, which is like a moving meditation. It’s taught at all the major music colleges, and really works.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

When I was in music school, I remember a period where a lot of the top players there were getting into Buddhism. My roommate included. But really it was just a fad, a year later and nobody was doing that stuff anymore. Why? because the best way to spend your time as a musician when you aren’t performing is to practice, so it was just a simple case of bang for the buck.

I have said many times that practicing meditatively will help. But that is a different sort of thing than actual Buddhist meditation

my experience has been that this is an idea that on the surface sounds reasonable and worth a try, but in practice, it just doesn’t hold up. I’ve never known any working musicians who honestly practiced meditation, but I have known a lot of them to give it a try.

I just think you’re better served spending the hour practicing

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

Meditation is a technique widely used by different faiths and beliefs and non-beliefs. It is practiced in relaxation classes, yoga, martial arts, mindfulness groups.
You don’t like it, don’t do it, don’t knock it.
Why would it make you more or less if a musician? Unless you are a better person? Are good people better musicians?

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I don’t think you can set off practice time against meditation time this way, Nate. Sure, prima facie 20 minutes of extra practice will improve your musical skills more than 20 minutes of meditation. But with regular relaxation exercises you’ll get more focussed in general, and thus improve the overall quality of your playing/practising experience (and just about everything else in life).

I’ve been doing autogenic training for a few years now… killer! You shouldn’t expect tangible results within the first couple of months, though. That’s the thing. Gotta try those breathing exercises, too! :~) So @Rick May, thanks for this interesting thread!

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

For me, it’s maybe 5 minutes, 3 times per day. I still have plenty of time to practice.

I think you have to do it daily and stick with it for a while, for it to be effective. I can’t see how it would do any harm, in any case.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

I just remembered that, years ago, a classical chorale I sang with would start every rehearsal with a stretching routine. With a leader and everything.

I’m not brave enough to try that at our session.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

BTW Martin Hayes is a practising buddhist, I believe. But my guess is, Padraig O’Keeffe probably wasn’t. Take from that what you will.

# Posted by CreadurMawnOrganig 2 days ago.

You heard the one about the two fiddlers?

One was a Buddhist and one was a Boozer?

[insert punchline here]

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

I suppose that, after a long day of cutting turf, relaxation would come naturally enough. But most of us don’t have the opportunity.

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The main benefit I think of meditation (even if just for a few minutes) in my view is to enable us to listen without mental clutter. An experiment worth trying: listen to a tune and see if you can *only* listen. No imagining fingering, foot tapping, guess backing chords or key, etc etc, just listen. Empty brain, only listen. This is harder than we think.

When I started occasionally backing, I found myself learning tunes without practicing (aside from working on fast ornaments) because I had to listen super-closely without distraction to figure out how to play along. Meditation helps, so does 420 for some, and for me a hard blast of physical exerise (eg ride bike to sess) helps clear brain.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

something I noticed from the bandstand over the years was that when somebody is really "on", their playing is just head and shoulders better than normal. A lot of guys can get to that state some nights, or by the end of the night, or when the place is really jumping….but I really thought about what goes on when you get in that state and then I worked on getting to that state fast. Like 8 bars into the first tune kind of fast.

I’m just a country boy and I don’t cotton to all the hippy stuff at all, BUT if you can clear you mind of clutter and become simply a conduit for the music to flow through, then however you get to that point is really up to the individual.

For me, living in the country helps a lot with clearing the mental clutter. I tell my friends who are unfortunate enough to have to live in town that the trick to clearing your mind is to go find yourself a large body of water, take out your cell phone, and chuck it as far as you can.

then go home and chop some firewood and dig rocks out of your garden for a while

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When something works for me which is good for my physical & mental health, helps me devote the necessary attention to what I am doing (work, music, relationships, contentment, & all the aspects of modern living)
things becomes simpler than they might otherwise seem to be.

The concept of ‘life is in breath’ is essential. Once you become aware of how you’re breathing certain things happen more easily, w/less distraction. That’s what meditation is ~ awareness of one’s action,
awareness of one’s breathing; of one’s rhythm.

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Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

Follow-up, 4 months later: still meditating daily, but not on a strict schedule. I don’t need to spend much time at it, I can settle into it quickly now, and feel refreshed after only a minute or two. Really helps with the jitters, in general. But no good for pulling an old tune out of the memory banks. I’ll need another trick for that.

Belated disclosure: I was influenced by a former martial-arts teacher, whose dedication to kendo seemed very similar to the attitudes of the best Irish session players. Humble, selfless—entirely devoted to the art, pretty much. Here’s a free e-book, his autobiography. He was born in Hawaii, moved to Japan as a teenager in the 1930s, drafted into their army, survived, then moved back to the U.S. in 1960, and lived to age 94. Quite a life.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/charlotte-omoto-and-rod-omoto/autobiography-of-rod-omoto/ebook/product-22423813.html?ppn=1

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

While we’re talking about relaxation and meditation, I’ve found that Tai Chi is great for learning to relax. It teaches you how to relax your muscles, which we talk about but a lot but which isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Re: Meditation exercises to improve tune playing

That’s another good point. For those of us who want to keep playing for years and years, anyway. As 90-something Omoto Sensei told me, more than once: "Take care of your body." Good advice.