Concentration and focus

Merry Christmas everybody. I’m working on some technical issues right now and I really need to keep focused while playing. I wonder if anyone has tips on how to maintain concentration throughout a piece. Teachers have commented on the importance of knowing where you are in the music at all times but I find that a lot more difficult in practice. I get going on a piece of music and find myself “drifting” in enjoyment of the music. All of sudden I don’t know how many repetitions I’ve done or where I am. It leads to unforced errors and mistakes that I shouldn’t have made.
I don’t think this is just age or “senior moments.” When I was younger I had similar problems when I played classical music, but I usually had the score in front of me to save me in the end.
Are there any techniques one can use to keep focused while playing?


I suffer from the same problem. There are songs when a short section is played 30 or more times. Do the performers all count all the way up? I doubt I will ever develop that ability.


Hi! @George_Miller - I feel I partly share the same experience most of the time … in my case - my full understanding of the jazz theory and where I am is still in the basics/ rudiments part :blush:

Thank you for this post - it sure will be helpful to us who would seek the same advice… I would like to also know about these tips :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

I must confess I did have a piano teacher when I was learning music, who would simply teach me to play the classical pieces from one level to the next, but not really fully explaining the musical elements, like the relevance of the sections, then theory side of it, the importance of the progressions and how they relate to each other… so I had to slowly find ways to understand what I am playing… or how to connect some of the important dots …

i would sometimes have to repeat playing just 2-4 bars over again, all because I wanted to learn where to place my hands on the keyboard or learn the shape of the chord… without really understanding what’s in that chord or progression - and so it lets me go back to the basics once again :blush: … and I would go back to lessons about how these chords were built, chord scales, the 2-5-1 progressions and Im sure there’s many more I need to check - and slowly - I would understand where the flow is going … (for the 2-4 bars that i was playing)

One of my usual mistakes (which I am now slowly trying to correct) is instantly diving into a jazz favourite song that I would see or hear - and just simply reading the notes I know would not help me that much, so I try to watch, listen “repeatedly” to the guide lesson and teacher’s explanations to understand the theory behind and many more…

sorry long reply :blush: Happy New Year!

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Thanks for the replies. I’ve been thinking about this issue of drifting with enjoyment of the music and suddenly making a blunder or realising you’re lost, and I wonder whether it just boils down to the fact that we’re doing it for “fun” and not as a full-time job. When I play I expect to enjoy the music too, and perhaps professional musicians don’t have that luxury. Certainly when I was in my previous working life I didn’t “drift” in the middle of procedures the way I do on the keyboard because I had a significant responsibility not to do so. But if this is true it must also mean that professional musicians must give up the enjoyment of the music during performance - a sort of Faustian bargain - you can play it perfectly but can’t enjoy it!


A movie about the life of Levon Helm was titled, “Ain’t in It for My Health.” It was something he said to Robbie Robinson when the latter announced his intention to retire from music, because he was worn out and burned out. Helm saw it as a job, a career, an income. I would imagine, when you play the same songs, 200+ nights a year, for close to fifty years, they lose their freshness a bit.

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Interestingly following on from Dan’s comment.

My own experience when younger was playing 7 nights a week in piano bars to earn income and teaching organ during the day. Not to mention playing in rock bands as well :grinning:.

Given the different types of people who visited these venues, not all came to listen to music. In fact, many times, I had to contend with those who were overly intoxicated trying to intervene. Regarding George’s comment earlier, I had no choice but to focus on my playing or watching out for close encounters.

Sadly, I found that after a few years of playing in these venues, that I soon lost a lot of the emotions and feeling in my playing and gave it away looking for an alternate career. I’m sure concert or other musicians playing in open venues and the people who pay or simply come to listen may have the opposite experience.


Hi Paul. Nice to hear from you again so long after our seminars with Tuomo. Sorry I took so long to respond. I remember the video you showed of you playing in the hotel. It was really cool and I really enjoyed your music. Since I formed a trio I’ve really enjoyed the experience but I must say I enjoy the rehearsals, the cameraderie and the practising more than the actual performing (we’ve had a number of gigs - well-received I think). I’m beginning to see musicians as people who play music just as much as people who perform it - the same as artists are people who paint, and dancers are people who dance. As long as we feel we have to play we are musicians. And so far I still feel the need every day to connect with music on some level -either practice or music appreciation of some sort. It’s a funny old world.