CGC 080 : Overload

//CGC 080 : Overload

CGC 080 : Overload

In this episode of The Classical Guitar Corner Podcast, Simon talks about “overload”: getting overwhelmed by too many things that can distract you from focusing in your practice and from the task at hand. Our guest for this episode is Ian Steedman, a member at CGC Academy, who brought up the topic of his own experience of feeling overwhelmed in the Academy Forum. This is a great conversation about how to deal with overload, which is more challenging to accomplish than it may at first appear. We hope you enjoy, and please do leave a comment below, either about your own experience of overload or how you dealt with feeling overwhelmed in your practice and learning process.

2018-12-16T12:09:30+00:0011 Comments


  1. Linda Tsardakas December 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I can definitely feel with Ian as I am also sometimes overwhelmed by all the information available today. Who would not be tempted by a so-called magic key to improvement although there is really no way around the time and effort we need to invest to achieve our goals.

    On a somewhat smaller scale, I am reminded by something I recently heard the Italian guitarist Aniello Desiderio tell a student about working on technique at a master class I was lucky enough to listen in on in Berlin. I find listening in on master classes in person to be a very personal and valuable learning tool. Angelo Desiderio told the student that of course there are many good technical exercises. What is more important than the exercise we choose is HOW we practice it. Less important is how long we practice – it is the quality of our practice, not the quantity, which counts. Technique is just as much – or even more – in your head as in your fingers, meaning concentration is the key. Five minutes of concentrated practice is already very good. So here it would also come down to avoiding distraction to nurture better concentration. In a way, this can be considered a strategy to avoid overload.

  2. joannes van schouten December 16, 2018 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Simon, Ian,

    Thanks for bringing up this topic
    I cannot agree more on your point of view.
    Once i heard a comment on the level of concentration when practicing and playing
    I think it was mentioned in a conversation between mr. mc Allister and mr. Russell
    ”If concentration is not part of your daily life you cannot expect it will pop up out of the blue while practicing or playing pieces”
    this podcast can be helpful to stay focused on what we all like so much.


  3. Glenn December 17, 2018 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    Simon and Ian,
    I really enjoyed the podcast. Simon, thank you for picking up a topic from the forum and exploring it further. Ian, thank you for your time and sharing your thoughts and feelings. I agree with the comments about access to so much information. But, it isn’t just that we have access to it, but that it comes at us so fast. And, I think some of that has contributed to our inability to concentrate or focus for any length of time , e.g. shorter attention spans. This doesn’t just apply to music or practicing. The Atlantic had a great article about this:

  4. Michael Clunn December 18, 2018 at 7:40 am - Reply

    Great interview and comments on this topic. I will agree with what Ian says about how interesting all of the new information is to read. A lot of us are very passionate about guitar, and about the music that surrounds it. Simon is definitely right that information is very easy to access today. And while that’s good, if you aren’t careful you could fall down the rabbit hole. For me, it isn’t so much “shiny object syndrome” but it’s that there is so much available that seems within reach of my abilities. This is where the curation and structure that Simon presents comes in handy. While I still branch out on my own from time to time, I have started to keep myself grounded in exercises and repertoire that I know Simon placed at the correct level for me. With limited time, I still find myself improving as a guitarist and musician. There are still times when I look around and see all of this interesting information, but I’m able to block that out to a greater extent and keep focused on what is working for me. Ian is right though, it takes self-discipline an a good bit of will power!

  5. Richard Croad December 18, 2018 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Yes, I can relate to overload. But sometimes I just have to take a grip, and concentrate on what is important and the immediate task at hand. That is usually accompanied by some other physical act of reinforcement, like clearing the clutter away from my desk, and so on. However, I haven’t yet been so moved that I needed to spring clean the entire house!

  6. Bruce December 19, 2018 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Thanks for another excellent podcast, Simon. For what it’s worth, I have found over the years that my state of mind and level of relaxation is critical to good practice and progress. What works best for me is to meditate prior to practice — or at least take a power nap — and then make sure that I don’t divert my attention from the intention to practice until the session is finished. Basically: relax into the flow and try to stay there. Good music is a state of mind.

  7. DaveColeman December 19, 2018 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    My tendency when I get very overwhelmed, whether it’s guitar-related or just life in general, is to shut down. I don’t recommend that, but that is my bent. Over the years, I have tried a variety of activities to lift me out of the mire, but it always boils down to some form of self-discipline. I just have to make myself do what I know I need to do. Sometimes circumstances do not allow us to do that as completely as we would like, but we have to make the decision to move in the direction we know we need to be moving in.

    I have always loved this quote from chuck close, the portrait artist. I think it applies to many areas of our lives.

    “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” ― Chuck Close


  8. Drew Burgess December 19, 2018 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    Hello Simon and Ian,

    Thank you for the dialogue. It seems the discussion is twofold, the general sense of distraction in the world today and the labor of art. We all seem to need to shut down our equipment some of the time—-to recollect a natural sense of who we are. As for works of expression sometimes it comes out fast and sometimes slow. I second Dave’s quote by C. Close with one of Picasso, ‘Inspiration exists but it has to find us working’. I also agree that there is no where to get to, we offer our fascination with activity while staying in the process of joy and wonder.

    Thank you Ian for your openness and courage!

    Best Regards,

  9. Donna Zitzelberger December 21, 2018 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    I second what Bruce says about meditation. With so much coming at us on a daily basis, it’s easy to get overwhelmed to the point where we are just spinning. Meditation is a pathway to slowing down, observing our space, quiet the world around us, and being present in the moment. That creates the ability for the mind to focus on what is before us. When I pair meditation with the goals I created (through recommendations from Simon, Dave, and Connie), it has become easy for me to pick what practice techniques will help me, and the overwhelm is gone.

  10. Robert Guerrero December 27, 2018 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Simon and Ian,

    Thank you for the very insightful discussion on the topic of overload. I can certainly appreciate your comments regarding the vast amounts of information available, as I am a librarian by profession. I agree it becomes a problem of curation and ultimately of guidance in order to efficiently navigate the plethora of data available everywhere. Thank you for pointing this out because I believe this part of the process is often overlooked and/or undervalued. Personally, I use a combination of personal instruction, the content on the CGC Academy’s site, and my local library to help identify and prioritize what’s available out there.

    Ironically, while listening to this podcast, I was reading the book “First, Learn to Practice”. So while it is true there are many books out there on the topic — too many to mention — including the fine David Leisner book you mention in the podcast, this Tom Heany book does separate itself from the pack with its simplicity. So yes, too many books and opinions exist on the topic, on that I most assuredly agree. But if you’re going to read one book about practicing this year, make it this one!


  11. Fuleihan Nada Sneige December 30, 2018 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed this podcast so much and am reminded that I love CGC because a lot of the advice here is not just for the guitar but also applicable to life in general. I agree with Simon. The tsunami of information and distraction as valuable as it is, is also a double-edged blade that can fritter away concentration capacity and lead astray from one’s initial plans. It is so important for me to have a daily dose of “quiet time” with no internet, or any kind of media. It allows me to remember my own goals when facing the endless stream of information and suggestions for different alternatives to practice methods, or other aspects of life in general.

Leave A Comment