What’s the big deal about being “in the zone” and how do you get there?
You might have heard the zone described as total focus, as losing your sense of time and space, of being completely absorbed in what you’re doing. People use phrases like, “being able to perform with total concentration” or “losing all awareness of one’s self.” It’s also called a “state of flow.”
From these descriptions, you might think being in the zone is the world’s best antidote to nerves, and in some ways it might be. But the secret to getting in the zone, whether you’re performing or practicing, is really a matter of balance. It’s not magic and it’s not a trip into the matrix. You don’t need a secret mantra or to try to shut your mind away from your playing. Being in the zone is being fully present and involved.
Sometimes musicians try to find the zone by attempting to play on autopilot. You know what I mean. It’s the idea that if you could just let your mind float as freely in performance as it does in practice, you would play with the same level of accuracy and expression. That’s a dangerous game to play, because the moment the unexpected happens - you play the wrong string or the pedal makes a noise or the lady in the front row coughs - you are jolted back into consciousness, and that’s almost never a smooth transition.
The zone isn’t about abdication; it’s about awareness. It’s not paranormal; it’s possible in the right conditions. Even better, it's possible to practice creating the right conditions, so that you can find your way into the zone anytime you want. Well, almost.
On today’s show we’ll talk about the factors that comprise the zone experience, the balance you need to create and the practice strategies you can use to find the focus and the flow that you’ve been wondering about.
Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode:
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