Wandering Mind

Last night, I was practicing and hit a rough patch. I kept stumbling over a section of a song called “Climbing and Falling.”

Then it hit me: my mind wasn’t in the game. I was distracted, stewing over something annoying my mother-in-law had said. 🤯

So, I switched gears and practiced a different song that involves singing: “Bittersweet Symphony.” Which was a better thing for me to work on in that moment.

I started to seriously practice music in college. I was playing in the symphony and trying to learn jazz solos on viola. That’s when I realized my mind had a tendency to wander. I’d be staring at a sheet of music and thinking about something totally different.

I’d been drifting mentally for years, but that’s when I really started to notice it.

Wandering isn’t all bad. Sometimes it sparks new ideas and fresh perspectives on playing. I find that sometimes when I’m feeling anxious or low it leads to a creative breakthrough.

Over time, I turned to meditation, which significantly improved my focus. Learning music isn’t just about the notes; it’s a higher-order skill that involves managing your attention.

All that said, I was simply tired—exhausted, actually, and recovering from a cold. Some of the simplest things are hard to learn. Like practicing earlier in the day when I have more energy.

Does your mind ever wander during practice? How do you handle it? Do you have a go-to song or exercise that helps you refocus?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. We learn better when we learn together.

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Further learning

Learning Music as a Spiritual Practice

Keep Your Brain In The Game

Music is a fun way to upgrade your mind

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3 responses to “Wandering Mind

  1. For some reason my go to tune is Whiskey Before Breakfast! I only ever play it when I’m struggling! That leads to Over The Waterfall and then I’m back & into my playing. On tired days I love to play soothing tunes; Midnight on the Water, Lonesome Moonlight Waltz, Dawning of the day, Lovers Waltz.

  2. I deal with this sometimes….. The thing is, life ebbs and flows. When things are flowing with usually-but-not-always good stuff – my business, my grandkids, holidays, health issues, a new dog, travel, a personal problem popping up…. all this stuff can fill up a day so much that carving out time to read a book or practice the fiddle can just add pressure to a day blasting by too fast.

    That is when I begin to feel a touch of …. guilt – trying to squeeze in the fiddle and in particular learn something new. I find I really need “play days”, where I am not trying to improve at all, just playing with the instrument, pulling back into the joy of just messing around, without the pressure of learning a skill or a specific amount of time.

  3. Yes, my mind wanders all over. I had a teacher say that sometimes we practice with other music on or the tv on and that has something to do with the mind wanting multiple inputs. Yet to make fast progress it is best to be totally present and mindful of what we are working on. Like doing homework with the tv on takes 3 times as long to do as when you shut everything off and just get it done.