[DAP isLoggedIn=”Y” errMsgTemplate=””]Playing Guitar in Your Head – Guitar Blog Podcast
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Playing guitar in your head? No it doesn’t mean you are crazy…or I am.
Yes, I am going to talk about how not playing your guitar can help you improve your playing. Well, at least not physically playing your guitar.
Most of the time when you think about practicing your guitar, you think about siting or standing with your axe in hand…deliberately moving your fingers repeatedly through different paths on the fretboard.
That’s one type of practice. But there is another very powerful type of practice that you can do anywhere at any time. And it’s all in your head.
The physical part of playing if very important, but that’s only part of the story. Thinking about practicing your guitar can be just about as powerfully.
And I don’t mean, thinking about how you “should practice”… I mean actually practicing your guitar in your mind. Thinking about playing the song exactly how you would play it. Practicing scales, chords, licks….all in your head.
Now why the heck would you want to do that? Well here are few reason.
1. You don’t have a guitar available
It’s a busy world out there. Yes you would love to have lots of time at home, closed away in a quite room with no distractions to focus on improving your playing. Yeah right!
That type of practice should be a piece of the puzzle. But you would be surprised what you could accomplish on your guitar when you’re…
Waiting for the bus
…Insert some other mindless task of choice
…I am not going to say while driving your car. That time is of course set aside for putting on makeup or texting. (just kidding)
You can do this mental practice whether you’re a beginner, or a very advanced player.
If you’re a beginner, you may have an issue of just remembering which basic guitar chord is which. Mentally play a D chord, or a G chord. Think about where your fingers go.
Then when you’re actually on the guitar, you’re going to have a much easier time because you know where to go. Yes, you still have to get your fingers to obey your brain. But you have your brain trained.
If you’re learning a new scale form, run through in your head where your fingers should go. You may already have the fingering memorized…kind of…but with the repetition in your head it helps move it into your subconscious.
Now you do not need to close your eyes an go off into la la land to mentally practice. If I told you to think about your car…your dog, your front door, your bathroom. Did you just get a quick mental picture of all of those things? Did you have to close your eyes? No.
So you can visualize the fretboard of the guitar in your mind with your eyes wide open and even while doing some other things with a little practice at it.
2. Cut down on the physical strain of playing
Another reason you might do some practice in your head, is to give your muscles a break.
When you’re first leaning to play guitar, you will not have developed the muscles to play some things for very long. Your hand might get tired after playing a chord change 5 or 6 times.
That’s where mental practice with your guitar in hand can come into play. Whatever you are about to practice. Rehearse it in your head a few times before you actually start playing it on the guitar. That can have benefits beyond just alleviating some stress on your hands. But the benefit of putting less stress on your hands can be very helpful.
The no pain no gain mantra is a bunch of crap!
Yes, you do sometimes need to push beyond a little physical discomfort in your hands. But get to know the difference between that and actual pain. Pain is your body’s way of saying…danger!
I know this first hand.
There was a period of time where I could barely play my guitar because of some severe tendinitis problems. And those tendinitis problems came in part from physically playing the guitar too much. There were times I was practicing 8 hours a day. That is way too many hours to be physically practicing the guitar.
It was at this time that I discovered mental practice. Discovering it earlier would have saved me a lot of pain. But while I physically couldn’t play, I was still learning and improving my playing. The time when I was actually physically practicing was much more focused and productive.
I might mentally practice something 10 times for every time I would actually play it on the guitar. I could improve while my muscles and tendons where in the process of healing.
3. Visioning a Perfect Performance
The last reason for playing guitar in your head may seam a little airy fairy…but it is science. Envision yourself playing that difficult passage perfectly. Or even a full performance.
I’m not going to go into all of the reasons why “visioning” a perfect outcome can help you archive it here. Just know that it works.
Know that top performing athletes will often mentally rehearse their “perfect” execution of a particular physical move multiple times before they actually do it.
You may see an Olympic diver standing at the end of the diving board for 15 seconds with their eyes closed. They’re not sleeping. They’re mentally running through the perfect dive that they would like to achieve.
That mental rehearsal of the desired outcome helps the brain lead your body in the right direction.
As an example I am going to use sledding. Yep, as I write this it’s almost winter and soon there will be snow on the ground. But last year after a 8 inch snowfall, My daughter and I got out the sled to go down a small hill in our backyard.
Now the first time down, it took some effort. Plowing through 8 inches of snow trying to make a path. But after about 5 or 6 times down the hill, there was now a packed “track” that the sled automatically followed.
So that mental rehearsal can serve the same kind of purpose. Creating a mental path that your hands will follow like that track in the snow was for the sled.
Don’t forget to actually play guitar.
Now of course mental practice is just a tool in your tool box to help you improve your playing. Don’t forget to actually go play the thing 🙂