So, I thought that it would be beneficial (since this has always been a hot topic) that I re-link to one of my popular video lessons posted on this very matter.
The original question /answer and video lesson [Apr. 05, 2011] are given below. Hope this helps out players in need of further study in this area. The handout can be downloaded from the April 2011 archives of my GuitarBlog web-site. Enjoy!
Q: I'm a new subscriber and have to start by saying a huge thanks for your efforts, you have awesome lessons! I am really struggling with the ability to play what I hear in my head. I'm fine with a sheet of tab in front of me, but I am terrible at learning anything from a recording, or playing anything melodic off the cuff. I have been learning my scales, doing picking technique and speed drills, but why can't I transcribe and just find the simplest of things I hear in my head on my guitar neck? I am getting really down in the dumps about this, because I know how important it is to do this instinctively as a guitarist. I've asked a lot of online guitar guru's this question, but none have given me a good answer -- Andrew, if there's anyone who I think can help me out there -- I'll bet it's going to be you! Thanks in advance.
- Michael, Las Vegas NV.
A: 95% of the guitar players I've taught since I started Creative Guitar back in 1992, generally focus most of their effort on their fretting hand and strumming /picking technique. However, the technique most often overlooked is -- playing what you hear in your head. That is important, but even more important is to do it literally, at will.
So, when a musical idea comes to you -- the idea can get out of your head and onto the guitar fingerboard in no time. And, if you want to become a good improviser (so you have the total enjoyment of thinking or hearing musical ideas and then playing them unrehearsed), this skill is an absolute must. So, how does a player do this? It comes down to rehearsal and daily self-testing. If you do this; you'll get it... if you don't, you won't.