Reaching For The Soul Zone

Every searching artist wants to get there. It's that magical place where something takes over, you know, when something bigger than you whispers in your ear and says "Relax - I'll take it from here!"

I like to call it the 'soul zone', others simply call it the 'zone', I'm sure there are many other names for it.

For those of you who don't know what the heck I'm talking about, it is the ultimate state to be in as an improviser. You might have played a gig and gone through the motions and nothing particularly interesting sprung from you. You might have played a solo at a different time and place and thought you said some pretty interesting things. But then you'll probably remember those times when you played a solo and something absolutely magical happened. Maybe you closed your eyes and you went off into this magical mysterious place where nothing else mattered. While you were playing you felt like you were in the middle of a 'happening'. Your tone was just right, your phrasing was great and it seemed like you were truly improvising for the first time in a long while. And strangely enough, at the end of your solo, you look up and you can't remember a thing you just played. Then the band members look at you with a big smile of approval. You were in a completely altered state, or so it seemed.

Does this situation sound familiar to you? If so, you have experienced the soul zone. One of those trance like states that every searching musician is trying to get back to. It's the spiritual realm. And we would like it to happen more often than it does.

There's no question about it, this experience may well be one of the factors determining why so many musicians have turned to drugs and alcohol in the past. That Zen like state seems to be one of the reasons musicians play music at all. Of course the good news is that you can get there without the substance abuse!

The question I have always asked is this: "Why does this zone only come about from time to time?" I think there are a number of reasons.

First and most important I think is the fact that there are so many distractions when we play. I have found that as my career got busier as an artist, I was sometimes taking on the role of artist, manager and agent. By the time I got on stage I was finally having to think about entertaining, whilst asking myself all sorts of things like "Am I losing the audience? Do they like this song and if not should I cut it from the set? - have I brought enough people to this show? Is the promoter seething with anger - will she book me ever again? How many CDs am I selling over there? Should I be promoting my CD more during the show? Am I funny witty and charming on stage - dammit do they like me at all??" Yiiiikkes heeeeeellllllppp!!

As you can imagine, this scenario doesn't exactly make for a Zen like transcendental state now does it? Of course I am exaggerating somewhat but my point is that all too often, there are too many distractions in order to get there.

The other big big reason is that sonically things might not be right. How many times have you done a show where the monitors sound terrible or you're playing through a rented amp that isn't sounding any good to you? What if the drummer sucks?

I have always thought that if the band is 'on' you simply don't notice any of them. The music just feels great and everyone is in sync - just like they should be. When this is the case everyone is in that zone and the music is magical. So it's definitely a matter of external factors being right as much as it is internal relaxation and the ability to let it flow.

One thing that I have always found particularly difficult and is a continual learning curve for me, is the art of recording. And here I don't simply mean recording guitar parts, that is a craft that can be learned. I'm talking about recording an improvised solo that is truly inspired. The question is "How do you get to that zone in a cold sterile environment?"

What amazes me is that there have been many many truly inspired solos recorded on albums, so those artists figured out a way to get to the zone. I have always found it easier to reach my optimum playing peak in a live setting. When I'm recording I want it to be just great, it's going to be immortal after all, you know, on a CD forever. And this is where the problem lies. Too much thought. To get to the zone one needs to totally let go.

So what can we do to help us get to that magical place? First, understand that it might not happen and that it's perfectly fine if it doesn't. It might be out of our control. Before you step out to play, take a deep breath and center yourself. Nervous energy can take over and it's important to get as much external crap out of our heads as we can and give the music our full and undivided attention. Take your time as you play, think about playing behind the beat instead of playing on top to drive energy. Relaxation is the key and the right energy will come as a result. Have your internal antenna up for musical ideas. They might come from the band and you should be ready to grab some inspiration from them. Close your eyes. This can help, even just to get you on the right foot. Let it flow. Try to ignore any reasons for you to not be present.

And that last part I think is the most important of all. Be Present. Not always an easy place to get to but if we can strive for it, I believe will make us better musicians, and we'll enjoy the music that much more.

Chris Standring is a contemporary jazz recording artist who performs throughout the USA and Europe regularly. He has enjoyed much radio airplay with several albums, opening up a busy touring schedule. His music appears on many compilation CDs also. For more info on Chris' popular home study jazz guitar course go to http://www.PlayJazzGuitar.com Visit him on the web at http://www.chrisstandring.com

In The News:


The Verge

Exclusive: How Drake and Apple Music broke streaming records with More Life
The Verge
Drake's latest project More Life was streamed 300 million times worldwide in its first week on Apple Music, Republic Records tells The Verge, surpassing the 250 million streams the label said Views, an Apple Music exclusive, did in its first week last ...
Drake's 'More Life' Streamed Over 300 Million Times on Apple Music in First WeekXXLMAG.COM
Drake's 'More Life' Has Already Broken an Epic RecordBET
Drake's 'More Life' Bows at No. 1 on Billboard 200 & Sets Streaming RecordBillboard

all 41 news articles »

Miami.com

Gallery: The heroes of Ultra Music Festival Day 2
Miami.com
Here is a look at the people who truly get how to do Ultra Music Festival, from Saturday. People who are obviously visiting us from the future. Lenny Martinez, 35, from Huston, Texas, wears an astronaut costume to the second day of Ultra Music Festival ...
Ultra Music Festival Announces Australian Expansion at UMF Miami 2017Billboard
A little tired, a little wet on Ultra's last dayMiami Herald
Ultra Music Festival 2017 Day One: Martin Garrix's Baby Face, Zhu's Silhouette, and MoreMiami New Times
EDM Chicago (blog) -Stoney Roads -CBS Miami
all 126 news articles »

KY3

Route 66 Record Show hosts 100's of music collectors as the vintage format makes a come-back
KY3
Some say it's the "resurrection records" that is making it so popular, but others say vinyl music never went out of style. Whatever it is, the vintage music brought hundreds of collectors to the Route 66 Record Show in Springfield Sunday. It's music ...


Fox News

Reynolds and Fisher honored with humor, music and dance
Fox News
Laughter, music and the tapping of dancing shoes reverberated throughout a public memorial to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, which loved ones say is just how the actresses would have wanted it. There were few tears throughout the two-hour ...
Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher celebrated with tears, music and 'Star Wars' tributesLA Daily News

all 304 news articles »

Miami New Times

Ultra Music Festival 2017 Day Two With Dubfire, Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, and the Prodigy
Miami New Times
This time of year is supposed to be Miami's dry season. That definitely wasn't the case on the second day of Ultra Music Festival 2017. Gray clouds hung over Bayfront Park eventually drenching the festival. However, it wasn't exactly like last year's ...


Journal Times

RUSD handbook changes could affect elementary art, music, PE classes
Journal Times
The handbook previously stated, "The District will employ sufficient art, music and physical education specialists to enable the District to assign at least one full-time specialist to each elementary school. .. The assignment of said specialists will ...


The Tennessean

Anastasia Brown has career-defining role picking music for 'The Shack'
The Tennessean
As Nashville's preeminent music supervisor, Anastasia Brown has the kind of dream job that almost doesn't seem like it could be real. She picks the songs for movies and television shows. Brown has served as the music supervisor for the popular ...


9 to 5 Mac

Apple Music execs say Beats 1 is 'the biggest radio station in the ...
9 to 5 Mac
Last week, it was reported that Drake's latest project was streamed 89.9 million times in its first 24 hours of availability on Apple Music, a number that bested ...

and more »

Savannah Morning News

Flannery O'Connor celebrated with parade, costumes, live music
Savannah Morning News
The Sweet Thunder Strolling Band leads a parade of revelers through Lafayette Square on Sunday for the Flannery O'Connor Parade and Street Fair, which celebrates the Savannah-born author's legacy. (Will Peebles/Savannah Morning News).

and more »

Fox News

Harry Potter movie to play at Radio City Music Hall with orchestra
Fox News
This coming weekend Harry Potter fans will be able to experience the first film of the beloved series in an entirely new way. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” will be shown at Radio City Music Hall accompanied by a symphony orchestra who will ...

and more »
Google News

Modal Theory for Guitar Players - Part 2

Playing the ModesWhen I used to use this pack with... Read More

Your PC Is An Awesome Singer... If You Let It!

As an amateur songwriter, who struggles with a computer far... Read More

How To Find The Right Guitar Teacher

Finding a good teacher is not always easy, at any... Read More

How to Use the Entire Piano Keyboard

There are 88 keys on the piano keyboard. Most pianists... Read More

Good News for the Musically Untalented

Have you ever been told that you were good at... Read More

Automatic Control of Chords

CORRECT PRACTICE IS INDISPENSABLE!Your success or failure at the keyboard... Read More

Flaming Guitars! Minarik Fuels The Excitement of a New Generation of Musicians

From the Telecaster to the Flying V to the Iceman... Read More

Learn to Fiddle the Orange Blossom Special, the Most Popular Fiddle Tune in the World

Learning to fiddle the Orange Blossom Special is not easy,... Read More

These MIDI Tools Are Music To My Ears

Curious about MIDI? Want to find out what tools are... Read More

Music Industry Insider: Tess Taylor of NARIP and LAMN

Members of LAMN (founded in 1988) and NARIP (founded in... Read More

Facts about MC Big Proof

Facts about MC Big Proof"If I was you, suicide would... Read More

The Top 10 Reasons Why You Suck At Playing Guitar

You don't 'need' to play guitar enough.If you desire to... Read More

Piano Chords and New Age Music

There are basically two ways you can compose a piece... Read More

Who?s Playing What? A Guide To The Guitars Of The Pros

Eric Clapton performs his slow-handed magic on his. Even with... Read More

The Art Of Practicing - How To See Real Results

I have always believed that success, in practically any subject... Read More

Tips on Performing Your Music for Others

Have you ever dreamed of performing a piece you created... Read More

Five Secrets to Playing in the New Age Style

1. Learn how to ImproviseLearning how to improvise is the... Read More

New M3 with Competition Package

The new competition package available for the BMW M3 is... Read More

Is Rhapsody Music Downloads Service Getting A Good Rhap?

Rhapsody music, from RealNetworks is one of several reputable legal... Read More

How to Create Interesting Textures

A lot of new age piano music consists of repeating... Read More

Performance and Gigs

"For optimum amp tone onstage, plug your amp into your... Read More

Acclaimed Songwriter and Performer Michael Alan Releases New CD: Searching for the Heartland:

New York born singer songwriter Michael Alan, who records with... Read More

How to Remove DRM from WMA - Is It Legal and Worth the Effort?

Technically, it's illegal to remove DRM from WMA protected music.... Read More

How to Buy an Electric Guitar Online

With the increased proliferation of online guitar and musical equipment... Read More

Fiddle Tab Makes Learning Fiddle Fast and Easy

Learning fiddle tab is so intuitive and so easy that... Read More