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This crossed my desk and is at the intersection of 2 of my interests, brain science and music.
A couple quotes that resonated with me:

The musicians who were experiencing flow while performing showed reduced activity in parts of their frontal lobes, which are known to be involved in executive function or cognitive control. In other words, flow was associated with relaxing conscious control or supervision over other parts of the brain.


For example, knowledgeable but relatively inexperienced computer programmers may have to reason their way through every line of code. Veteran coders, however, tapping their specialized brain network for computer programming, may just start writing code fluently without overthinking it until they complete – perhaps in one sitting – a first-draft program.

I'd be interested in hearing from veteran musicians that have experienced "flow" and how it aligns or doesn't align with this article.

Musicians and Creative Flow


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As a computer programmer and a musician, I have experienced is crossing over from "still learning to do it" into "performing with little effort". I assume anyone who drives a car or rides a bike has the same experience.

For example, when I'm playing a piano part that I haven't completely internalized, I'll have think about what I'm doing. When I reach for a specific interval of notes, I need to double-check that my fingers have landed at the expected anchor points, and the stretch of my fingers matches the interval. It's hard because I'm still learning it as I'm playing, and learning takes a lot of work.

In contrast, when I've internalized all that, it takes far less mental effort - I can just reach for the interval, confident that the I'll hit the mark.

Of course, sometimes that confidence is misplaced. wink

Because I'm not a great player, I'm always ready to strip complexity from my playing in order to maintain that groove. If I'm coming up to something that I won't be able to execute at the full level of complexity, I'll figure out how much it needs to be pared down so that I can keep the groove.


-- David Cuny
My virtual singer development blog

Vocal control, you say. Never heard of it. Is that some kind of ProTools thing?
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Originally Posted by dcuny
As a computer programmer and a musician, I have experienced is crossing over from "still learning to do it" into "performing with little effort". I assume anyone who drives a car or rides a bike has the same experience.
My experience is similar but a tad different.

There is perhaps just one song that I can play along to on the bass where a) I have it so memorized and that I have such "relaxed conscious control or supervision" that it's as if I'm on some kind of auto-pilot and b) where I experience a state of near-euphoria. This song is Song on the Radio by Al Stewart. Others may call this "being in the zone". It's more than just locking in with the drums, it's like riding a wave of vocals, keyboard and sax with your fingers knowing you won't fall off the surf board. Maybe another way to express this is being part of a "larger truth"; that is, the band. I am able to improvise on this song but only a little bit; my bass skills hold me back from fully improvising without error. The funny thing is that I have yet to reach this "zone" with any of the stuff I've actually composed and recorded.

Likewise, over my career there were times where I'd be in a similar "zone" while writing code or working a tough engineering problem late at night when only the janitors were around. But I can't say that I reach a similar zone while riding a bike, driving a car, or speaking/writing English. Perhaps, the "danger" of messing up or a real sense of accomplishment needs to be present. Or maybe joy has something to do with it. Riding a bike or speaking is so easy there's no danger, joy or sense of accomplishment involved.

Perhaps this isn't about intensive hyperfocus on a task or relaxing one’s focus but rather some combination of the two. In any event, this is a fascinating subject.


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For me there’s no better place in the band than to have one leg in the harmony world and the other in the percussive. Thank you Paul Tutmarc and Leo Fender.
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I have always told my students learn scales and music theory but don't let it get in your way when playing. After you play you can analyze what you did via music theory. Learning scales and music theory gives one the background and confidence to jam or improvise with authority. Music is the one thing where you learn the rules so you can break them!

Having such a background allows me to jam with confidence with Bob and others. My own compositions usually start with a chord progression and a BiaB style that I play over. Once I have a melody down I can improvise with it. That is the same as when I play songs out of a fake book; the first pass I play the melody, the second pass I improvise, then back to the melody. This is a jazz thing and why BiaB calls a chorus one pass through a song.

Like David at times I have to think and check my fingerings while play something new and difficult. That is part of the learning process. Now with arthritis attacking my fingers sometimes what was easy is now harder to do, if at all possible, so I do as David does then also.

Music is a wonderful universal language.


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I definitely agree with MarioD. Learn the fundamentals until they are under your fingers. Scales, arpeggios, and as you progress, more complicated things (depends on your instrument).

But you need to get to the place where you can turn off the cognitive part of your brain.

I've been playing music on stage for a long time, and I don't know how it happens. But when I'm singing, playing, and improvising, I get into that place where there is no space, no time, and no me, just the music that feels like it's flowing through me instead of from me.

Now in the parts that are memorized, it's easy to analyze, but I leave room for an improvised solo in most of our songs. How does that happen? It's almost like I'm listening to someone else play the solo, and on rare occasions, I even surprise myself by playing something really superb and unusual.

I guess it's the zone, flow, or whatever else you want to call it. But being in that place is the best part about being a musician. And I'm lucky enough to be able to make my living that way.

Also, I've noticed that if I get distracted and then have to think about what I'm doing, the magic is broken, I have to think about what I'm doing, and it's still good, but not creative.


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Originally Posted by Notes Norton
.............................................
Now in the parts that are memorized, it's easy to analyze, but I leave room for an improvised solo in most of our songs. How does that happen? It's almost like I'm listening to someone else play the solo, and on rare occasions, I even surprise myself by playing something really superb and unusual.
.................................
Also, I've noticed that if I get distracted and then have to think about what I'm doing, the magic is broken, I have to think about what I'm doing, and it's still good, but not creative.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

That is exactly how I ran my wedding bands. Improvising solos kept the band fresh (and happy:}) and surprising ourselves took us to another level. Our customers never knew that we were just improvising. However you need the right personal in the band to accomplish it.

Yes, the creative magic is gone if you must think about it while you are on stage. However thinking about it during practices and/or using BiaB can lead to those magical moments.


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So where do you come down on what a state of flow is?

Intensive hyperfocus on the music or relaxing one’s focus?


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So is the objective to suggest an operational definition of “creative flow?” Sans that folks can run all over the map with experiences that may or may not have a thread of commonality.

Bud

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If you have to think, it isn't flow. Flow leads itself to where the moment is. Thinking is programming yourself and referring to some mental "lick library" you have. Copy band players do that because it is their vision quest to sound EXACTLY like the record. Like a little robotic jukebox. When you are truly into flow, just close your eyes and watch the little black dots go by in your mind as your soul takes the music where it wants to go.

ANY flow starts with learning how to play an instrument. Maybe try that.


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Originally Posted by eddie1261
........................

ANY flow starts with learning how to play an instrument. Maybe try that.

Bingo! We have a winner!
Spot on!


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Originally Posted by Janice & Bud
So is the objective to suggest an operational definition of “creative flow?” Sans that folks can run all over the map with experiences that may or may not have a thread of commonality.
I think some degree of commonality is being observed from brain imaging data.

"The musicians who were experiencing flow while performing showed reduced activity in parts of their frontal lobes, which are known to be involved in executive function or cognitive control. In other words, flow was associated with relaxing conscious control or supervision over other parts of the brain."


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Originally Posted by eddie1261
ANY flow starts with learning how to play an instrument. Maybe try that.
Eddie, is this directed at me? If so, I am learning an instrument, actually more than one; view the Showcase for examples.
I don't see any examples of you on the Showcase. Can you play an instrument?

I'd be interested in hearing from veteran musicians that have experienced "flow" and how it aligns or doesn't align with this article.


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Flow happens, if I am performing and can't get to the 'Flow' aspect, it's a bad night.
However, as mentioned, practice does indeed help make the 'Flow' possible, but to me that went without saying.

A musician knows how to play their instrument (or 2 or 3 or 4)
A musician getting into the 'Flow' was the article, and yes, it happens. You know the music well enough that you are not in the 'reading/thinking/computing' state of mind (learning), but more in the feel/groove state, which is always a much better place to be.
Music flows out of you that you never would have anticipated sometimes.


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Originally Posted by MarioD
Originally Posted by eddie1261
........................

ANY flow starts with learning how to play an instrument. Maybe try that.

Bingo! We have a winner!
Spot on!
Mario, I disagree. How can "learning to play an instrument" be spot on?
Isn't this rather obvious? How can you reach a state of flow if you flat out can't play an instrument?
Another obvious statement is that the musician can't be in a coma, indeed, he must be alive smile

I'd be interested in hearing from veteran musicians that have experienced "flow" and how it aligns or doesn't align with this article.

PS: Sorry to hear you have arthritis. Periodically check with your doctor and watch the medical news. Big Pharma (and Medium Pharma for that matter) are developing new drugs all the time.


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Originally Posted by rharv
Flow happens, if I am performing and can't get to the 'Flow' aspect, it's a bad night.
However, as mentioned, practice does indeed help make the 'Flow' possible, but to me that went without saying.

A musician knows how to play their instrument (or 2 or 3 or 4)
A musician getting into the 'Flow' was the article, and yes, it happens. You know the music well enough that you are not in the 'reading/thinking/computing' state of mind (learning), but more in the feel/groove state, which is always a much better place to be.
Music flows out of you that you never would have anticipated sometimes.
rharv, VERY well articulated.
I agree that practice is fundamental, the musician must know the piece "backwards and inside out". And this does go without saying.

And I agree, as you say, that there is a difference between reading/thinking/computing (clunky, descrete, relatively slow, digital?) and feel/groove (smooth, continuous, effortless, relatively fast, emotional?, analog?)

I'm sure there is more to this subject and it's neat that researchers are investigating this. As happens with so many other areas of research, most likely this area of research will result in unforecasted benefits in adjacent areas of brain science.

Last edited by Bass Thumper; 04/19/24 05:28 AM.

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Originally Posted by Bass Thumper
Eddie, is this directed at me? If so, I am learning an instrument, actually more than one; view the Showcase for examples.
I don't see any examples of you on the Showcase. Can you play an instrument?

I play 3. And I write. I produce my own stuff and have produced other local artists in my area. My lyrics come from my soul, not AI. My chord progressions come from my head, not Scaler. I have a BA in Music and as of this month I have 68 years of experience. (I followed that up with a 2nd degree, a BS in Computer Science.) I have been in some of the top bands in my area. I am just now old and physically unable to attack music with the passion and respect music deserves, so I retired from it rather than pretend I still have what it takes.

I have now retired and quit playing, but I didn't have to give the degree back. I still know music inside and out. I have been a showcase winner of a free copy of BIAB 4 times. I am all over the showcase. Don't you know how to search?

You likely do what you do at a very high level. I would never pretend to do what you do.

That's good advice.


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Originally Posted by Bass Thumper
Mario, I disagree. How can "learning to play an instrument" be spot on?
Isn't this rather obvious? How can you reach a state of flow if you flat out can't play an instrument?
Another obvious statement is that the musician can't be in a coma, indeed, he must be alive smile

I'd be interested in hearing from veteran musicians that have experienced "flow" and how it aligns or doesn't align with this article.

PS: Sorry to hear you have arthritis. Periodically check with your doctor and watch the medical news. Big Pharma (and Medium Pharma for that matter) are developing new drugs all the time.

I meant that Eddie's statement about learning an instrument is spot on. Some so called "musicians" are just cutting and pasting loops together or using only AI to make a song. Once you have learned an instrument the flow can come naturally. I know you are learning an instrument or two so that statement doesn't apply to you.

Yes, I think flow aligns with the article. Once you are in the groove and flow is happening it feels like all other parts of my brains shuts down, i.e. it is the ultimate high, at least for me.

Yes, me and my doc has been on top of it. Actually I have found out that Hemp Root, dark cherry pills, and fish oil really help. On occasion I do have meds that help but I rarely need to take them. But some damage has been done.


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Originally Posted by Bass Thumper
<…snip…>How can "learning to play an instrument" be spot on?
Isn't this rather obvious?<…>
I think what is understood in that statement, is ho well you learn to play the instrument.

It's a combination of learning things until you can play them without thinking about them, and enough experience so that you can play the right things at the right time without thinking about it.

When I was young and learning to improvise in bands, I did a lot of thinking about what I was doing. Some things I did worked out well to my ears, others did not. Plenty more were between the two extremes.

I never intended to get into the zone, I never tried to do it, and I don't think you can intentionally get into the flow. With enough experience, it just started happening. I didn't even notice it at first.

So it's about learning to play the instrument well, plus a good dose of experience.

As I said, I don't think you can go into the flow intentionally, and some people who are very good players never seem to get there, either.

So I wouldn't be concerned about it. I'd encourage people first to practice their fundamentals until they don't have to think about them. The fundamentals can't be overstressed, fragments of scales and arpeggios make up the bulk of what we call music. If you can't do this without thinking, you are at a disadvantage.

Then learn some other people's solos that you particularly like, and are at your skill level. Keep progressing and learning more difficult passages. Little by little, you will build up a vocabulary of licks, and they will reside in your subconscious. Somehow, and I can't explain how, to me, it's magic, the right notes will come out at the right time while you are improvising.

My best advice is not to think about it. If you are meant to get into the flow, it'll happen all by itself. Keep learning, no matter how much you know, there is something else to learn. That's one of the things I like about music.


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I'd encourage people first to practice their fundamentals until they don't have to think about them. The fundamentals can't be overstressed, fragments of scales and arpeggios make up the bulk of what we call music. If you can't do this without thinking, you are at a disadvantage.

Quote
I'd encourage people first to practice their fundamentals until they don't have to think about them. The fundamentals can't be overstressed, fragments of scales and arpeggios make up the bulk of what we call music. If you can't do this without thinking, you are at a disadvantage.

Quote
I'd encourage people first to practice their fundamentals until they don't have to think about them. The fundamentals can't be overstressed, fragments of scales and arpeggios make up the bulk of what we call music. If you can't do this without thinking, you are at a disadvantage.

Quote
I'd encourage people first to practice their fundamentals until they don't have to think about them. The fundamentals can't be overstressed, fragments of scales and arpeggios make up the bulk of what we call music. If you can't do this without thinking, you are at a disadvantage.

Quote
I'd encourage people first to practice their fundamentals until they don't have to think about them. The fundamentals can't be overstressed, fragments of scales and arpeggios make up the bulk of what we call music. If you can't do this without thinking, you are at a disadvantage.

There you have it. Take the words "PRACTICE" and "FUNDAMENTALS" from that if you take nothing else.

Learn how to play. Not how to program computers and call it your own. While there is an intellectual component to making music, that component is best applied to learning those (say it with me) FUNDAMENTALS. Scales, keys, why the different keys have sharps and flats, how those keys relate to each other.

Last edited by eddie1261; 04/19/24 08:41 AM.

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Originally Posted by MarioD
Some so called "musicians" are just cutting and pasting loops together or using only AI to make a song. Once you have learned an instrument the flow can come naturally. I know you are learning an instrument or two so that statement doesn't apply to you.

Yes, I think flow aligns with the article. Once you are in the groove and flow is happening it feels like all other parts of my brains shuts down, i.e. it is the ultimate high, at least for me.
It's also a high for me.

"The takeaway for musicians, writers, designers, inventors, and other creatives who want to tap into flow is that training should involve intensive practice followed by learning to step back and let one’s skill take over. Future research may develop possible methods for releasing control once sufficient expertise has been achieved."


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Originally Posted by Notes Norton
I never intended to get into the zone, I never tried to do it, and I don't think you can intentionally get into the flow. With enough experience, it just started happening. I didn't even notice it at first.
Agreed, that has been my experience.

And the brain science research will continue. Not sure where it will lead, most likely in unexpected destinations; perhaps to better understand and treat savants.


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For me there’s no better place in the band than to have one leg in the harmony world and the other in the percussive. Thank you Paul Tutmarc and Leo Fender.
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