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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Reflex Memory and Why You Can't Trust It

Having listened to hundreds, no, thousands of student and professional guitar players during my eventful life I can with some confidence declare some common tendencies. Here are just three for your reading pleasure and reflection:

- they get nervous before and during public performances
- they make mistakes
- their memory fails them from time to time

If you know a guitar player or other instrumentalist who is unfamiliar with any of these three tendencies please write to me and we shall carry him or her shoulder high from his or her next concert through the streets of his or her hometown!

Now, I think the third factor is a powerful reason for the first two tendencies happening at all. In the acting world it is called 'drying' on stage and is considered the nearest you will get to wanting to disappear down an imaginary plug-hole there and then. Musicians are not far behind in how they feel, only it is not talked about so freely.

If the memory is not secure then the nervous system goes into a state of alarm and all the bells in our fragile interior start to sound. When this happens the fingers tense up. As they do so they miss their footing so-to-speak (handling is a more appropriate word!) and make a mistake. This often causes the flow and rhythm to stutter which in turn causes havoc with the memory.

What is the answer? It is a big step forward if the memory process does not rely only on finger reflexes but also on visualisation techniques which include:
- name the notes under the fingers as you play in slow motion
- name the fingers, frets and strings step by step without playing
- name all the notes one at a time without playing
- run an imaginary film of yourself playing in which you visualise the finger patterns, frets and strings and below (as subtitles) the musical score all at the same time.

Once one has gone through this process you will feel more confident of not forgetting. At first this is an admittedly laborious process, but with time it speeds up and becomes second nature. In doing so you will be less nervous. Being calmer you are less likely to make mistakes.

And so at a stroke we have dealt a blow to three of the most negative factors common to guitar players and other musicians. Call me an optimist, but believe me, I am convinced it works!

20th April 2013, Celano, Italy

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Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=2360 .
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