フォーカス - フローの開放(By Paul Tompson)

Paul Thompson(pdbass)が語る「フォーカス - フローの開放」を翻訳しました。















Stan Getz called it being in the alpha state,
how Galper calls it being in the zone,
transcendentalists call it zen.


Have you ever played a solo where everything just seemed to come together,
where everything just unfolded while you simply observed?
Maybe your hands seemed to play the instrument by themselves,
or it was like you were sitting and listening in the audience while you played.


Something for some of us, this might seem like a once in a blue moon occurrence,
and yet it seems as though our musical heroes reach this level every time they touch the instrument.
Supreme flow, concentration, focus, these can all be achieved on a consistent basis
if we know how to work on it, regardless of the instrument we play or even the genre of music we perform in.


But firstly, I think it's important that we understand a couple of things about how our brains work with music.
First, the myth of multitasking.


Neuroscience tells us that we don't really do multiple things at once.
We simply switch very quickly in our brains from one thing to another, at the cost of doing it efficiently and probably making more mistakes in that process.


Don't believe me? Try this exercise:
Set a stopwatch. On a blank sheet of paper, write the phrase "I am good at multitasking" on one line. Then, on the next line, write numbers from 1 to 20. How did you do?


Now, grab a second piece of paper, restart the timer, and write the same thing. But this time, alternate between the top line and the bottom line, letter by number. How much longer did it take you to do this? Did you make any mistakes?


This exercise is only showing us the advantage of focusing on one thing at a time. So what does this mean? It means we can't focus on playing well if we have to stop and think about what the notes in the chord are. It means we can't play well if we constantly evaluate everything we play, phrase by phrase or chorus by chorus.


This means we can't be thinking about things we have to do off the bandstand in the back of our head. We have to be focused entirely on the present and the now in order to play our best. You have to step aside for the music to happen at its highest level.


Pianist Hal Galper once said, "The key is your ego," and that's where the problem is. As long as your ego is there, blocking you, your sense of self is there. It's like music is going from your ear directly to your cerebrum to be judged and then to your temporal lobe to actually be processed. We have to take that extra link in the chain out of the whole process of making music. We can't waste our time juggling additional thoughts that happen while we're playing.


Secondly, mental practice is just as important as physical practices when it comes to making music. Combining mental practice with physical practice will accelerate your development as a musician. It's not a myth - training your brain somehow makes your fingers perform better on your instrument. David Baker, Joshua Bell, and Jaco Pastorius, to name a few, have all spoken about the benefits of mental practice and how important it is.


So how does one practice and maintain focus? Here are six techniques that I use to stay on my mental game as a musician:


When we get nervous, we tend to take short, shallow breaths. Our heart rate goes up, and our mind becomes flooded with all kinds of racing thoughts. Taking a deep cleansing breath at the beginning of a song or at the beginning of a phrase is one of the best ways to empty out a noisy mind.


Maybe you're playing a tune that has a particularly challenging bridge or some kind of lick in the head that's very difficult, or maybe a really rough set of changes you have to negotiate. Maybe you're a bass player, and you're hella nervous because you have a solo coming up. Notice how your body reacts to this - we become tight, we breathe less. Notice how you breathe or your lack thereof. Take a deep breath before you get to these spots and release it. Learn to take deep breaths at critical parts of the tune. Relax.


Now, this goes without saying, but in the context of our brain and focus, there are two types of listening we can focus on: distal and proximal. Distal listening means the big picture - pull back, hear the entire band, all the instruments at once, almost as if you're sitting in the audience. Proximal means close or isolated. Most of us learn to do this kind of listening when we're learning an instrument or a lot of us in music school probably listen to music like this. This is where you zoom in on that one or two instruments and you tune everything else out.



Both of these types of listening have helped me at various times. Sometimes I'm too focused on what I'm doing and I need to widen my listening and start to include other musicians and instruments into what I'm hearing in general. On the other hand, sometimes my focus is too broad, and I feel like I need to zone in on exactly what the drums are playing. So, I might choose to listen to only the hi-hat and what's happening there, or only the ride cymbal, or sometimes the left hand of the pianist in order to narrow my focus. At that point, I can start slowly adding instruments into my field of vision or taking them away as needed.


Now, you can do this at home. If you've never tried it, take one of your favorite records and put it on and see if you can mentally move the faders up and down and focus solely on what the piano player is doing or solely on the bass notes, and then maybe blend in a little bit of drums or listen to just what the horn player is doing. This is a way to practice widening and narrowing your focus during a given song.


This is one I've been thinking a lot about recently. For me, whether I play with my eyes open or closed is a total game changer. I never really seriously thought about it until this one time when I got to kind of play with Christian McBride.



It was a real blast, and in the end, he offered me one piece of advice. He said, "Open your eyes when you play." Frankly, I was actually terrified playing with him, and I closed my eyes because I was scared to death. But slowly, I started to notice that when I did close my eyes when I played, I was more inside of my head. My brain was much more active, even producing images while my eyes were closed and my thoughts were racing. For me, I have to play with eyes open, focused on something or even someone in the room, so that my eyesight disappears. I know that sounds weird, but when I keep my eyes open and I'm really focused on the music, I stop seeing.


When I toured with Maynard Ferguson 20 some years ago, and we would give clinics around the country, he always told the kids who played trumpet to pick a point of focus in the back of the room and to play to that spot. Now, I'm not sure he was talking in this kind of context, but I can totally relate. Now, when I open my eyes, I'm focusing outside of myself rather than inward. So, experiment if you're somebody who plays with your eyes closed all the time. Try to open your eyes, divert your visual focus, see what happens when you look at another member of the band or an audience member or that exit sign in the back of the room.


pay attention to how your instrument feels when you play it. How tactile is it? What do the tips of your fingers feel like on the string, or the valve, or the key? How much actual motion do you have to move to make a sound? How much air do you have to breathe in to make a good tone? Pay attention to your body and exactly what it's doing in order to make the sound happen. Be mindful of your motions, your fingers, your hands, your embouchure, particularly in the practice room. The athletes that are most in tune and aware of their bodies when they're practicing are the ones usually that can avoid injury and execute the best.


In other words, don't overplay. In a study conducted in 2014 at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, 44 elite musicians described their thoughts and focus of their attention while performing. The number one answer was the physical aspects of playing. The number two answer of that same survey was thoughts that give confidence. I think most of us know what it feels like to play something really well. Sometimes we feel like we can walk through a wall. Our confidence gives us permission to play without judgment. Miles Davis's attitude made every note he played the right one.


Athletes practice visualization. NBA players shoot a hundred free throws in practice and then visualize themselves making a hundred more in their head. Visualize yourself playing an amazing groove. Visualize the other members of the band bobbing their heads and smiling. Visualize your audience roaring with applause when you're done playing. Visualize yourself playing extremely fast tempos and difficult passages with ease.


Now, I have to say that I've used visualization for years and years, but you've got to trust yourself when you visualize. Before I had big gigs or let's say I was going to take a big solo and I wanted to impress people, I would visualize my heroes in my head. I would try to play phrases like them. I would try to see myself as them while I played. And this is not the right approach. You have to see yourself. You have to have the confidence and the trust and the belief in yourself and what you decide to play. So visualization is great, but you've got to see your own success. Trust yourself.


Remember that love is the most important element of all with the music. When you play with love, there are no wrong notes or funny chords. There's no need to sound good. Why do you play? The greatest musicians in the world are like billionaires that give away their fortune every day. Don't hoard yours. Play and share the love with as many people as often as possible. You can't tell me that you've ever heard John Coltrane or Duke Ellington or Jaco Pastorius and not heard the incredible amount of love that's in their sound.


There's a fear that professional musicians often have that someone is going to refer to their music as amateurish. "Amateur" the Latin root of the word is "amare," which means to love. I'll take amateur any day over someone who isn't having fun and loving what they do. Don't confuse the quality of the performance with the quality of the experience. Choose to play with love and love what you play.


I want to thank you for sticking around and watching the whole video. If you liked it, please don't hesitate to give the video a thumbs up. That'll help my channel. And if you're not a subscriber, by all means, if you like all-original jazz bass-centric content coming at you every single week, click that subscribe button so that you know the next time I post a video, which will be very soon. In the meantime, take care of yourself and please love your neighbor.




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