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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Guitar practise: brain rules all


It is self-evident that all learning and playing depends on the information and messages you transmit to your hands from your brain. There you are, playing your guitar, ideas come to you and you try them out, and sounds emerge as you play which give you new ideas. Back and forth they go: you play, you listen, you think, you play, you listen, you think and so on.

Think - play - listen

What is the balance between these three aspects? It varies from person to person. Some of us are more intuitive and others more cerebral. Before making a suggestion of how to create a balance let me first paint some brief portraits in words of character tendencies which emphasise one or other of these aspects:

The go-for-it-type-player:
Play - listen - play - listen
Note here there is little or no reflection or pause for thought. Often this sort of player hardly pauses for breath and practises everything fast or very fast. When mistakes occur he or she gets very frustrated and talks or shouts out loud using rude words! At the end of a practise or playing session there is a vague feeling of frustration, of hit and miss, of “some days it works and some days it doesn’t.”

The long-term-type-player:
Think - play - think - play
Note here there is little or no listening. This player creates very specific tasks for himself and often follows prescribed methods, sometimes of his invention. Characterised by a praiseworthy determination in relentless pursuit of the faraway goal the only thing that is missing here is actually listening to the sounds coming out of the guitar which in extreme cases may be feeble and unmusical.

The get-it-right-now-type-player:
Listen - think - listen - think
Note here there is little or no playing. This is the most unusual type of player. I was told a story by someone who overheard a leading viola player practising. It sounded awful. When teased about this, the viola virtuoso replied “I only practise improving what I can’t play. There is no point practising what I can.” I myself heard a chamber group of piano and string quartet practise together just 3 bars. They kept at it for about 15 minutes. But here is the important point: between each repeat there were long pauses while they reflected on how to improve it.

Creating a balance between these three aspects - play - listen - think - is up to you. It will depend partly on your personality and how you like to learn, but here is an example of how you might make the best of these three features:

Balanced approach:
Think - play - listen - think - play - listen

Play and listen to the piece you are learning - try to remember exactly where it went wrong or what doesn’t sound quite right. Concentrate on the problem passage. Repeat very slowly.
Play and listen: where and what doesn’t sound right?
Think: why is it difficult?
Think: do I need repeat this many times or is there another way round it?
Think: what is the way round this?
Think: is there a better fingering?
Think: is it a matter of technique? If you find another way, do it again and play and listen.
Listen: does it sound better?
Think: if the answer is no will it sound better if I practise it a little more or is this a dead-end?
Play and listen: if it is a dead-end think what other technique or techniques do I have to develop to play this and how shall I develop them?
And so it goes on.

So think - play - listen can expand to become:
Think - experiment - change - play - listen - think - confirm or reject - experiment again - play - listen

The basis underpinning all this is your conviction that you can get better much more quickly provided you harness together thinking, playing and listening.

This has been my rough guide to a more balanced approach to practise.

May 2011

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=536 .
© 2019.

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