Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Making Time for Down Time

One of my favorite times to play/practice music is during a short 15 to 25 minute window.  Like, for example, on the rare morning that I am ready for work about 20 minutes early, I’ll set the timer on my phone, remove all other distractions, and then devote my full attention to working on one musical task for the next 20 minutes until the alarm goes off.  It might be a difficult passage, a whole tune, an improvisation, etc.  Later on that evening when I pick up my banjo again I’ll find that the brief but dialed-in time I put in that morning really had an impact, as opposed to mindless noodling with a TV in the background.

The bottomless lake that is music can easily become an overwhelming, all consuming task with no end in sight.  It’s easy to get burned out.  I don’t want music to be a source of stress and anxiety.  I want it to be a source of pleasure, mindfulness and relaxation.  I need to have an off button.

I’ve realized that I need to make music playing more like my “down” time and not my “up” time.  One way to help achieve this is by focusing completely on the now when playing or practicing.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Set a timer for 20 to 25 minutes and then single-task on one very short term goal or project.  When that time is up take a short (or long) break.  Allow yourself to step away and be (temporarily) done.  When you resume – maybe just 5 or 10 minutes later – set the timer again and either continue working on the same project or try something new.  The important thing is to devote that short amount of time to your single goal of the moment.


  1. I've followed your blog for years and really enjoy it, being a tenor banjo player myself. Thanks for all the posts/info/insights over time! Just wanted to let you know that we've succeeded in getting the Banjo Hangout (BHO) website to create a separate discussion forum just for 4-String Irish Trad musicians. You can visit it here: Anyways, I was hoping you could perhaps create a blog post alerting others to this new forum, so they can come and join us there and get it up and running? Thanks so much. :-)

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