Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mental Practice: Visualization, Away from the Instrument

Most of us don't have the luxury of practicing 8 hours a day with instrument in hand.  Luckily, there's a lot of practice you can do away from the instrument - while doing mundane tasks, while walking, while trying to fall asleep, et cetera.  
Learning music is more aural than physical and mental preparation is a rewarding form of practice.  Tunes are not just sequences of finger motions.  Listen repeatedly to the tunes you want to learn.  Get it out of the fingers and into the ears.  You need to be able to recall a tune in your mind before you play it with your muscles. 

Run a tune through your head and imagine the fingerings required to play it.  Work through variations mentally.  Envision yourself playing it in an optimal state of total relaxation - fluidly, efficiently, effortlessly. Do your thoughts become fuzzy at a certain point or do you notice any physical tension arising while imagining?

Other things you can do include thinking about the notes in a chord or about different modes and scales and the relationship of the notes in that scale.  Name all the notes in a melody.  Give the notes numbers, based on their relation to the tonic/root.  Sing the names of the notes in pitch.  Picture the fretboard and where each note is.  When you pick up your instrument to play the body will follow suit.  The mind teaches the body.

Finally, when music is playing around you, even crap music, listen intently all the time.  Focus and be an active listener. Never turn your ears off.  Try and analyze any music you hear.  Mental sharpness and aural recognition will pay off more in the long run than mindlessly churning out scales and exercises.

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