VISUALIZE-practicing without your instrument in hand
Something I wrote a while back. Just wanted share and see if it still could shed some light.
I've often read in this forum, that many of you are away from your instruments for long periods and have no way of practicing, so I thought I'd share some of my ideas and approaches on how to practice without your instrument in hand.
There is a story about the world renowned pianist Artur Rubenstein who once had to learn an entire piano concerto while on a train to the very recital in which it was to be performed.
He hadn't had the sufficient time to rehearse it before hand and had to rely on his mind's eye to "practice it".
Needless to say, the recital was a success and this approach became a part of his regular technique.
Pagannini was said to have also used this mental practice technique. A man who was curious about how Pagannini practiced, arranged to have a hotel room next to the virtuoso's to catch a glimpse. The man heard nothing, and found out that Pagannini did not always practice with the violin in his hands.
Using the power of "mind over fingers" is not just a mental approach reserved for special people.....heck, I use it all the time, and you can't get any more normal than me.
Often times I don't have time to physically learn tunes for some of the gigs I do, and often just listen to the C.D.s or tapes on the way to the gig, memorizing the songs and solos, parts, or whatever, only to play them live only an hour later.
Anyway, any guitar player, any musician, can use this method.
Though the mind's ability is almost limitless, there are some things that will short out the process, you should be aware of.
Much of our blocks, mentally, come from impurities in our bodies that inhibit our nervous systems. Stress can reduce our capacity as well; attitude can affect greatly our mind's ability to control our body. Taking the attitude and believing the lies that we are untalented or limited will build walls between our minds and hands.
EVERYONE can use this technique to some degree.
Visualizing the fretboard is something that has helped me considerably. I'm often asked how I memorized my modes, and then how I manage to get in and out of them as fluidly as people seem to think, and my answer is simply: "the fretboard lights up for me, and I can see every note choice visually..."
So visualization can be a great, a powerful tool for us.
Our conscious mind thinks, and give commands.
Our subconscious mind attempt the commands.
It is our subconscious that performs breathing, digestion, etc.
But, we can train it to perform, with precision, musical commands as well.
Repetition of input will cause the inner process to become more forward, and take on an immediacy, and second nature akin to breathing, and blinking of eyes.
Negatively, you can keep telling yourself you are going to screw up that one solo in the 3rd song, and it will most often bear out as such.
Positively, a piece practiced many times; a mode practiced many times; chord fingerings; etc. will tend to burn into your brain's deepest regions and and thusly, give you more muscle memory control, and deliver accurate results.
Hearing things from within; seeing music visually; sensing your playing BEFORE it happens all require one common thing: FOCUS without FEAR.
Focusing without fear takes a calm approach.
It takes an acceptance of the moment, and letting go of the past and future results.
And it takes the ability to just let the music happen, and not try and "control" it.
Hearing music from within takes the discipline of ear training and creating a foundation of sounds and their relationships, once internalized, you can almost learn a tune from memory.
I've played countless gigs where a tune is called that I've never played before, and I've had to play it on the spot from having only the memory (sometimes quite distant) to work from.
Seeing music visually, can be seeing the fretboard, see unrelated non-muscial shapes and colors that your mind associates with certain sounds. It can be seeing the relationships of distance from chord to chord, interval to interval, and it can be quite helpful. It can be seeing the notation in your head and visualizing the fingerings. All come with time spent on creating those associations.
Sensing your playing BEFORE you play it, is a kind of sixth sense, and a kind of confidence. You can sense the tension rising in your body as a difficult passage come along and diffuse it. You can improvise your solo mentally ahead of time while the pianist is soloing over his chorus of the jazz standard. The key to sensing ahead, is relaxation and listening carefully.
A clever player will always seek the techniques of practice that yield the highest quality result, with the least effort. Visualization is such a technique, although it does require laying some ground work and some mental concentration, it can require less physical energy, in the long run.
All that is necessary is for you to have a clear concept of the musical result you want to achieve, then your fingers will be guided naturally towards the realization of the goal, provided that your conscious mind gets out of the way, and doesn't try too hard to control the process. Some details of playing require special attention, repetition and careful analysis and will resist this technique, but much of the kind of physical contact with the instrument can be reduced by doing more with your mind than you have been accustomed to doing. The idea is to allow the music to become a part of your inner mind and let it flow from within, rather than having to squeeze it out with force.
that's why we (I) try to emphasize the necessity of internalizing music. if you can translate your mind (and ear) effortlessly to your fingers, all the technical clean-up can come later. but if you spend all your time running up and down scales to get your fingers up-to-snuff, you lose that time that could be devoted to breaking down musical contexts and elaborating on your ability to hone your real-time musical logic (or for performers, reciprocity of that logic)
I try to study the theoretical aspect of the instrument like ubication, chord progressions, chord shapes but as far a studying and entire piece of music seems very difficult...
chord shapes aren't theoretical, they're physical preset voicings that will eventually reduce the efficiency with which you process musical thoughts down the line.
breaking down a piece of music is the single best way to gain theoretical knowledge. everything else is used to build up to that, but the only way you can understand how the whole is more powerful than a summation of the parts of any piece of art, you need to break down the music in context and extract from it all you can before moving onto the next.
it's an arduous process, but it's the equivalent of adding an extra mile or two to your run in the morning - high pain, high gain. if you're not up to push yourself as hard as you can, why bother maintaining the pace you've already built towards? the only brick walls are mental until you're dead.
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