#1
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.....

.....but 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.......though 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...

Anyway, some thoughts I had today.....I thought I'd share them......

Peace,

Scott


#4
Quote by ledzepprules09
Cliffnotes version? I don't wanna read that it's long.


Play in your head to practice.
Done.
#5
I picked up "subconcious thoughts" on the way scrolling down to say it's too long.

But yeah it's a tad long. What is the main idea? Tips for how to practice without an instrument with you or are you asking for ideas on how you could practice without one?
Quote by HuckIt
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#7
I would write an article on this. Its a great way to practice, if you can do it. If you can do this, write an article or series of articles on it. Seeing as i dont practice nearly as much as i should, this would help out alot.
#8
Seriously, too long?

Are you guys kidding me?

Just being honest here, but playing music well doesn't happen overnight, and you guys are telling me you can't sit through one article and then dumb it down to "practice in your head"?



#9
Amazing that people can't even be bothered to read it. I don't suppose any of you ever read a book?
#10
Quote by Bornlivedie UK
Amazing that people can't even be bothered to read it. I don't suppose any of you ever read a book?


Thank you.


#11
And here I am sitting in a lame-ass business class, hoping there was a good way that I could drown out the prof w/ some table tapping or something...
#12
Quote by Scott Jones
Seriously, too long?

Are you guys kidding me?

Just being honest here, but playing music well doesn't happen overnight, and you guys are telling me you can't sit through one article and then dumb it down to "practice in your head"?



I've practiced atleast 4 hours a day for the last two years. "Play in your head to practice" wasn't simply an attempt to dumb it down. It was just seriously all I got out of it. The, you can feel free to elaborate on what I missed.
#13
interesting idea, good article. i agree, perhaps a more in-depth look might be good too.. (and worth the 'long' read lol.)
#14
def. worth the read!
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#15
Nice article Scott, you should post it as a column. This reminds me of a dream I had the other night where I was playing a gig with my brothers' cover band and I didn't bother to learn how to play any of the songs before the show. It was a success but then again it was only a dream.
#16
I was about to post asking about this kinda stuff lol :P well written!

Just btw, anyone know ways to revise practice theory without an instrument? (i.e. long car trips etc., just with pen/paper/ipod...)
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#17
I liked this read man.

The bit about visualising the fretboard in your head, is what I do, and helps me. I also try to imagine sounds, but im not that good at that yet.

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#18
Damn I've been doing that 'visualise the fretboard' thing. It also helps to visualise the treble and bass cleffs when you're learning notes, or thinking what sharps, etc, are in key signatures.

I thought I invented it lol
#19
It was very interesting. I kinda allready knew that if you think you're gonna mess up you will but i was wondering if the same could happen if you try to think about how to not mess up too much.

This is because i've found that sometimes when i peform something on an instrument i play better if i don't think about it too much (this is when i've been playing something i've practised sufficently, i don't mean that you should just go up and play something you've never practised). When i start thinking of where i'm putting my finger for the next note i tend to mess up more often that when i just play without concentrating too much.

Also, did you actually never play songs before gigs or were you just saying that it would be possible?
#20
Quote by Mitch72

Just btw, anyone know ways to revise practice theory without an instrument? (i.e. long car trips etc., just with pen/paper/ipod...)


i could use some tips too..
Quote by joshjhasarrived
Little does the government suspect that it's funds are being rapidly drained through funding infinite free cardboard boxes to bored teenagers on an internet forum.
#22
Quote by 12345abcd3
It was very interesting. I kinda allready knew that if you think you're gonna mess up you will but i was wondering if the same could happen if you try to think about how to not mess up too much.

This is because i've found that sometimes when i peform something on an instrument i play better if i don't think about it too much (this is when i've been playing something i've practised sufficently, i don't mean that you should just go up and play something you've never practised). When i start thinking of where i'm putting my finger for the next note i tend to mess up more often that when i just play without concentrating too much.

Also, did you actually never play songs before gigs or were you just saying that it would be possible?


There have been many times where I learned the song on the way to the gig in my car, and played it for the first time live that night.


#23
Quote by Scott Jones
There have been many times where I learned the song on the way to the gig in my car, and played it for the first time live that night.


Does this require strong relative pitch?
#24
^ i would think so, i have a pretty decent relative pitch and i do this all the time at work. i spend way too much time thinking about playing guitar. i visualize how my hands will move across the fretboard and i can honestly say it helps.
#25
Quote by quinny1089

This builds the pathways between the nerves faster (or so i believe)


scientific studies have proven that it does indeed build the neural pathways quicker.
#26
Quote by z4twenny
^ i would think so, i have a pretty decent relative pitch and i do this all the time at work. i spend way too much time thinking about playing guitar. i visualize how my hands will move across the fretboard and i can honestly say it helps.


And for those of us, who, like me, have a week sense of relative pitch, this will not yet help us. Of course, over time our pitch will get better, but when I learn a song by ear, I just think of the scale and guess at what degrees to use. Generally I can find the next note on one of my first three tries, but I'm no where near accurate enough to be able to do this without an instrument to test if I'm doing the right thing.
#27
I read a book not so long ago that said the same things you did.

Personally, I try to strengthen my inner ear, but I've never felt that air guitar helped me in any way. I guess it just depends on the person.
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#28
Good stuff, and some great music on your MySpace. Hope your posts here generate some interest in your music, as its well deserved.
shred is gaudy music
#29
Quote by GuitarMunky
Good stuff, and some great music on your MySpace. Hope your posts here generate some interest in your music, as its well deserved.


Thanks man!!! I appreciate that!


#30
Quote by Mortido
I read a book not so long ago that said the same things you did.

Personally, I try to strengthen my inner ear, but I've never felt that air guitar helped me in any way. I guess it just depends on the person.


I don't think hes really talking about actually gaining speed or technical ability without an instrument. Its more learning things like, memorizing, learning new songs by ear etc...
#31
^ actually you can become more technically proficient without the instrument in hand, but its not something the average guitarist can do after a year of playing (in fact i've been playing for about 12 years and i've only started to be able to do this over the last 3 years or so) it's not a replacement to actual practice but consider it a supplement. you can't always play guitar when you want to (if i could i'd never work eat sleep or do anything else for that matter)

i can personally say my learning curve has been shortened a little bit by doing this. i've been using it for sweeping. am i "teh mastor sweepzerz!?!?!?111oneoneone" no, i'm not. but considering i MIGHT practice it a total of 30 minutes a week i think i'm doing pretty decent for my on and off practice over the last year. its also what i used when i re-vamped my technique to get rid of the tension and get a slightly smoother sound. it was actually FAR easier for me to imagine playing without tension and then implementing it later.
#33
I do this Scott, I just never really took notice of it. But it's a major reason why people say I create such emotion when I play..now that you've put some concrete behind it, it may help me advance more smoothly

To lazy people: if you can't spend 2 minutes reading about how to become a better musician, you don't really even deserve to become a better musician with that attitude
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#34
Quote by z4twenny
^ actually you can become more technically proficient without the instrument in hand, but its not something the average guitarist can do after a year of playing (in fact i've been playing for about 12 years and i've only started to be able to do this over the last 3 years or so) it's not a replacement to actual practice but consider it a supplement. you can't always play guitar when you want to (if i could i'd never work eat sleep or do anything else for that matter)

i can personally say my learning curve has been shortened a little bit by doing this. i've been using it for sweeping. am i "teh mastor sweepzerz!?!?!?111oneoneone" no, i'm not. but considering i MIGHT practice it a total of 30 minutes a weTek i think i'm doing pretty decent for my on and off practice over the last year. its also what i used when i re-vamped my technique to get rid of the tension and get a slightly smoother sound. it was actually FAR easier for me to imagine playing without tension and then implementing it later.


OK. Thats fine, but I still think that TS's point was that one can learn songs without an instrument more so than it was that one could improve technique without an instrument.

I did practice bass finger style without an instrument a lot. When I first started working on using three fingers, I would just keep tapping my three fingers very steadily on the table, and moving them in the same motion i would whilst playing. I practiced playing them in several orders, and with different taps accented, and it helped a lot. However a lot of left hand stuff requires a level of precision which I am unable to achieve without seeing the fretboard and feeling the frets.
#35
I've found a similar method has worked for me before; when I had no idea how a piece went, I typed it exactly into Guitar Pro and listened to it.
The main reason I found the piece of music much easier was that I now completely understood how it went, down to every last note.
When I picked up the guitar, I sort of sang along to my playing in my head, and it now comes out perfectly every time.
Call me Batman.
#36
great idea, but my only suggestion is not to use elipses(...), because it creates a train of thought feel to the piece, and thats what makes people not want to read it, because it appears to be one long sentance that never ends
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