Home Media News & Blog Better Practice Through Mindfulness—Part 4
Better Practice Through Mindfulness—Part 4

Better Practice Through Mindfulness—Part 4


Regular practice is the cornerstone of good musicianship. This is particularly true for our instrument.

We have a bag that we need to control and regulate in a steady manner, we have four reeds that we need to keep in tune, and we have a unique chanter that requires good technique to produce a pleasing, musical sound. Without regular practice, we would not be able to manage and control the many variables that go into a good, musical performance.

We have two enemies that can prevent us from practicing regularly: procrastination and lack of concentration. If we put our practice session off until tomorrow, when it could be done today, we rob ourselves of the benefits of daily practice. If we can’t concentrate when we practice, the our session becomes ineffective and we might practice our mistakes.

In Part 3, I discussed research into mindfulness mediation and how it might apply to reducing procrastination and increasing concentration. In this post, I will discuss some additional methods for reducing procrastination.

According to Beswick and Mann, procrastination is when we delay beginning or completing an intended course of action. It sounds banal, but there is wisdom in this phrase; there are two types of procrastination that work against us. We can procrastinate starting a practice session. When we watch cat videos, or follow other distractions, instead of starting our practice session we delay beginning our intended course of action. When we don't complete a crunluath exercise, we delay completing our intended course of action.

Both types of procrastination can have a deleterious affect on your ability to play the bagpipe. If one puts off a practice session until tomorrow, it may not make a big difference, as a matter of fact, the case can be made for rest and recovery. However, if one puts off practice sessions for several days, one will lose the cumulative effect of practice. When your gracenotes and embellishments begin to "pop," you know you are benefiting from the cumulative effect. If you miss several days of practice, you may have to open your gracenotes and embellishments to play them correctly. While open embellishments are often necessary in order to properly train the fingers, when you lose that pop and have to open things back up, you have lost the cumulative effect. You may recover quickly and regain that pop after a few practice sessions. But you delay moving to the next level beyond the pop.

The ultimate danger, when one delays starting a practice session, is that, when the days turn into months, one runs the risk of losing interest in one's instrument and, possibly, giving it up.

Procrastination can affect your in-practice routine as well. If you delay working on something difficult in favor of something simple (or even watch cat videos during your practice session), you are delaying the hard work that is involved in mastering a difficult task and, most probably, you will not achieve your intended result. It is important to be able to refocus during your practice session so that you do work the hard stuff.

To that end, you can further "downregulate the limbic system" by breaking your practice session into smaller, achievable tasks. The Dojo U approach is ideal for this. Coupled with the Dojo mantra, "play slowly," you can achieve results, and receive the mental satisfaction of a job well done.

Consider the Dojo breakdown of the Taorluath:

  1. Start on (come from) any note.
  2. Play Low G.
  3. Play a D grace note on Low G.
  4. Play any note.

If you follow the cardinal rules for embellishments:

  1. Play each step accurately.
  2. Play each step evenly.

And play a taorluath to Low A from each note on the scale from Low A to High A, you can do it successfully and receive the mental reward for doing so. If you have difficulty, slow the exercise down to the point where you can execute each taorluath accurately and evenly.

If you are a procrastinator, set achievable goals for your practice sessions. You can write your goals down in an elaborate plan or you can have a conceptual, unwritten approach

I would also add that, if you are a procrastinator, I would recommend trying mindfulness meditation. The steps are easy:

  1. Sit with your back straight and eyes closed.
  2. Notice the feeling of your breath as you inhale and exhale. Focus your attention on one spot where the feeling is most prominent, usually the nose, the chest, or the belly.

Mindfulness meditation is a simple technique. It can help you learn to refocus your brain. It doesn't take any special equipment, you don't have to join a class, you don't have to pay any money.

Take Action

Develop the Practice Habit
Develop the Practice Habit-Part 2
Deliberate Practice and Practice Habits, Part 1
Deliberate Practice and Practice Habits, Part 2


Mark Olson Mark Olson is a software engineer in Omaha, NE. Over the years, he has played numerous musical instruments including the bagpipes, guitar, piano, flute, and saxophone. As a young man, Mark competed as a solo piper. Due to the demands of raising a family, Mark had to forgo his musical pursuits. While he regrets the fact he gave up the bagpipes, he is proud of the fact that both of his sons have grown to be fine young men. With the nest now empty, he has picked up the pipes once again. If he gets his chops, and his groove, back, he plans to compete again as a solo piper.