Finding your FLOW could change everything about playing.

Thank you for all your emails, I really appreciate it. I tallied up the results and Flow came out a winner!

Check out Flow Part 1 if you need to familiarize yourself with Flow or you are reading about the subject for the first time.

So let’s go over what Flow is. Described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (a.k.a. Steve)…

People are most happy when they are in a state of Flow— a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter (Csikszentmihalyi,1990).

It’s the state we’re in when your friends, family and colleagues go behind your back and say “He/She is crazy… does strange things,” “he’s in a different world when he plays his instrument.” 

Einstein, for example, was noted as being in a state of constant Flow. Showing up to dinner parties in his pajamas not knowing it was “socially unacceptable.” Being totally consumed with some of the most important theories that would soon change the way we view our world, making “appropriate attire” seem frivolous in comparison.

The state of flow is the state of personal optimization. Don’t let societal “norms” detour you.

Flow in Practice

The two variables in Flow are Skill and Challenge. And in this case Skill is specific to the task at hand, as you’ll see in the example. Not to be confused with, for example, “overall guitar playing-skill level.”

Let’s take whatever tool you use to make music with (whether you’re a DJ, Bassist, etc.) and assign you a challenge to see where you land on the chart below.

Since I’m a drummer I’ll use a drummer’s example, but substitute my analogy for something relative on your instrument:

Ex: A steady R&B beat – no fills…




Where did you land?

Keep it in mind. But first I’ll explain how practicing my R&B beat got into Flow, which hopefully will clear up some confusion as well.

This beat is what I’ve been practicing lately reaching Flow by way of “Arousal.”  I’ve been practicing it a different way though. I needed to increase the challenge. I’ve been trying to play the same R&B beat for one-hour straight. The ability to groove, lay in the pocket for an hour on one beat (a la Steve Jordan, ?uestlove).

My beat into FLOW

SKILL – I have the neurological (motor skills, coordination etc.,) and musical skills (Accents, rhythms, groove, etc.) to pull off this beat.
Pay attention on this one…

CHALLANGE – The challenge of laying in the pocket for an hour on one beat was “just hard enough of a challenge” to yank my SKILL level back to the point where I can’t play it perfectly yet, but it’s intriguing. I am at a point where I feel it coming (it’s there somewhere), I just need to practice it some more.

The thing that pulled my skill level back on this one is the hour groove. I can lay in the pocket (at least I think so) for a certain amount of time on one groove for, let’s say, the length of a song. But NOT an hour. At about 15 minutes things start to get shaky. The bass drum has lost its energy, the hihat is at a totally different accent pattern, and the snare drum lost its pocket… that sort of thing. 

Side note…You do have to want to play a beat for a hour.

A few minutes after engaging in the beat, I start to FEEL FLOW. Even at the 15 minute point!!! From there, I am really practicing.- %100 concentration and focus, until someone or something annoys me enough to snap me out of total bliss!

This is how practicing should be done.

And that is the act of practicing in the state of FLOW, learning a challenge that tugs and pulls on your skills to align yourself into the portal mental states of either Arousal or Control, to reach Flow. 

You got it?

Now take a second to make this chart your desktop background so it’s ingrained in your mind!

If you have any questions feel free to email me at


Originally posted 2012-04-30 21:17:13.