The Bhagavad Gita on How to Train Your Musical Mind to Focus

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!

“The mind is restless… impetuous, self-willed, hard to train: to master the mind seems as difficult as to master the mighty winds.”

The Bhagavad Gita

Is there a difference between body and mind? They certainly influence each other. They are two sides of the same coin.

But the body can move without the minds attention. We can be distracted in practice, thinking of other things, and our fingers keep moving.

To play beautiful music, we need absolute attention and awareness. We need to both guide and observe. We need to maintain an ideal, while navigating the challenges of the moment.

But how do we train this? How do we become more aware in practice? How can we use our attention more effectively?

Attention, focus, concentration – these words are often used interchangably. Whatever the title, it’s a muscle. And like other muscles, it must be exercised and trained. Otherwise it atrophies and withers.

Walter Geiseking was one of the greatest pianists of the early 20th century. He suggested that 20–30 minutes of highly-focused practice would exhaust most of us. So he would forbid his early-stage students from doing any more than this.

This is because we learn fastest when we avoid mistakes. The fewer mistakes, and the more correct repetitions, the faster we learn.

But to go slow enough to maintain strict attention and stay aware of every sound and movement? Isn’t this difficult?

Definitely. And that’s why it works.

Easy practice doesn’t help us improve. We need challenge[tk – recall]. Muscles (both mental and physical) need to work for it. When we struggle constructively, we grow.

To train our minds – this is one of the hardest parts of becoming a musician. But also one of the most rewarding.

So how do we train? …

…We pay attention to specific things. We set specific challenges for ourselves and strive to meet them. We keep it slow. We hold the highest standard and trust that the outcome will be positive. We do the hard work of focusing.

With this practice, we become better at noticing where and when our minds stray. And we get better and faster at bringing our minds back to the task at hand. Like reps in the gym, each time our mind wanders and we bring it back, we grow stronger.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

I just started level 1C...I was able to look at a Carulli piece, albeit a simple one, and understand it. And that understanding allowed me to play it much more easily on the first run through, and I expect it will allow me to make it fully musical at tempo quite soon. That's a huge personal victory for me. Until very recently my mindset was: "Notes on a page. Jimi didn't need them and I don't either." But I ain't Jimi, and now I want those notes on a page.
My work in CGS, even at these early levels, got me to that personal breakthrough. And that's given me more confidence that continued work will get me to greater places in due time. So to answer your question: yes, I absolutely feel like I'm making headway and moving forward in my playing. Thank you for that.
~ Matthew Ecker


I just want to thank you for your lessons. You are helping us to understand how a piece is composed, the parts to analyze and how to do it. You are teaching a lot about how to read and play, and the most important part: PLAY with the music and ENJOY it.


~ R. Martinez

-R. Martinez

Become a Member and Play More, Beautifully!

“The basics are the basics, and you can’t beat the basics.”
Charles Poliquin

Join the program that takes you from the beginning fundamentals to advanced mastery, so you…1

  • Move your hands safely and fluidly
  • Enjoy fulfilling practices and meaningful work
  • Play beautifully with expression and flow

Click the button to take a step towards an
organized, effective guitar practice. >>>