“There are two kinds of facility, or ease, independent of one another. The first is mental facility, which allows one to understand, retain, and fully penetrate all the musical and artistic problems which apply to the instrument; and this requires a great pliability of spirit.” -Emilio Pujol
There are two reasons why I chose the subject of concentration as the first topic to be discussed here.
First, to successfully execute any large-scale musical scheme a tremendous amount of concentration is necessary. For many, even to play two notes with the same timbre, volume, and depth is quite an undertaking.
Secondly, I’ve noticed my progress has accelerated in recent years due to a greater emphasis being placed on concentration. I’ve made strides in the arena of mental agility due to stressing this concept in my work.
While the importance of concentration seems self-evident, I regularly see young guitarists sabotaging their progress due their lack of attention to the most basic musical principals. So remember, concentration must be cultivated towards something. If you do not fix your focus on a very precise point your vision, or product, will inevitably be out of focus.
Here are a few objectives I try to direct my focus towards while pursuing purposeful concentration.
Interpret everything you play! While this seems an obvious point, I would say most students do not give musical goals to their scales, arpeggios, and other technical exercises. Over the years I’ve come to find the speed of a scale does not matter if it is unmusical. To be used for music it must be musical. You will also find, depending on your desired musical aim, you’ll encounter different technical challenges accompanying those goals.
Practice only as fast as you can achieve your desired result. This, while requiring a great deal of concentration, tests your patience. So many students I’ve taught and studied with work simply toward speed, believing when the speed is up and it becomes a little easier, they’ll then add the music. This idea has an inherent contradiction contained within it - The technique they’ve sped up is different from the technique required for their musical idea.
Allow yourself to study in an unrushed manner. So many students brush over their musical goals for the sake of getting A, B, and C done within a 50-minute practice session. To achieve your personal best time is required to develop an acute ear and sense of touch. These are needed to discover the demands the guitar asks of you in return for the music you desire.
A crucial aim to consider while employing these ideas is to work toward a continual increase in your ability to stay engaged, not allowing the mind to wander. It is surprisingly difficult to play through single-note scales in all 12 keys while inserting accents, dynamics, timbre changes, or any target you may have with an unwavering mind.
Also, rather than asking yourself to concentrate, allow yourself to concentrate.