From how we practice to how we think, everything affects our playing.
Balance and focus are our keys to success, and when we find the 'right blend' we'll not only make music that brings great joy to us, but to everyone around us as well...
Guitar Playing Health: Imagine how many times you use an index finger in one song! Some songs have hundreds of notes, and this will tax the fingers, joints, tendons as you repeat a motion 1000’s of times. So – repeating perfectly normal motions over and over can lead to injury and we need to become mindful of this.
Many pro players and adult players especially ages 35-45 have hand problems due to the stresses of life, financial stress, lack of warm up time, before gigs, etc.
And even if you are playing properly, “overusing” your body can cause injury. I hear about guitarists doing 2 4-hour gigs a day and then wondering why they have hand problems.
Progress comes from mindful relaxed practice sessions which are broken into several 15-20 minute chunks, and then spread over months and years. Think “long term” planning, and go for slow, boring steady progress its much safer for you in the long term.
Never practice past the point where your body is telling you to stop. It’s not weight lifting, and a hand injury can put your playing out of commission for a long time. Remember, it’s ok to say “I’m done for today.”Come back tomorrow, your guitar will still be there.
Watch my video on "Finger Dexterity and Exercises," to learn a collection of balanced ways to keep your dexterity up and how to exercise your way to healthier guitar playing.
Tip #1) Establish a Stretching Routine
I have some great stretches for the hands on youtube. You can start doing these now as “preventative stretches” and they will help your playing technique as well.
I also have a good video on Relaxation and Stress Reduction. These are a MUST for all guitarists because they help with the early "Warm-Up" period of your day. This period (if done) will lower your risk of injury substantially.
If you're experiencing hand pain right now, watch my video on, "Guitar Playing and Hand Pain," to learn how to combat this issue and keep a more relaxed state during practice and live playing situations.
Tip #2) Take Breaks During Practice
Taking breaks during practicing - every 15-20 min. (whether you feel you need to or not) is a very important part of a proper /balanced study routine.
It’s easy to play for an hour with no break and not realize it, but through taking breaks, you'll actually have a more balanced study routine and you'll retain information longer. You’ll make more progress this way as well – and your brain will hold on to more information in your long term memory as well.
One of the worst groups of players for playing too long are Intermediate level guitarists. They posses the skills to really hammer out ideas, but the ability for solid playing in many areas is still under development. This causes them to push themselves for too long during a workout. Watch my video on, "Intermediate Guitar Players Practice Tips," to understand how to create a well balanced routine for daily practice.
Tip #3) Balance Guitar Practice with Music Practice
Things like speed and fluidity and “techniques” will simply “appear” when you grasp the concepts behind the music you play. Players who are "speed" practicing (fast…tense... until they are blue in the face), generally lack feel.
Not only can this be bad for your body, but you get de-sensitized to the music. This is a such waste of time to practice guitar this way. Although some technical advantages can arise through this, more often than not you'll produce lost hours musically.
The best practice is to understand and contemplate the musical idea you are working with first. By starting from the music you'll find ideas come out of your fingers with much less practice than you thought. Just keep in mind this important rule... the music comes first, then the techniques will follow.
Watch my video on "Simple Soloing Techniques" to help better understand how basic study that relies exclusively on 'hearing the music' (and starting from a perspective of the music) will help propel you forward in playing guitar solos easier, faster with less stress.Then, watch my valuable video on the guitarists, "20 min. Guitar Scale Workout," to really get your scales going with only a short workout every day.
Tip #4) Focus on the "Flow" of the Music as You Play
When guitar players are focused on “the music”, the groove, and the beauty of melody (through their guitars sound), the human body always feels great. And, that "feeling great" aspect holds for both the player and the listener.
Spend a moment and watch the video below of Norman Brown naturally riffing out to a jam-track on his tablet at the NAMM show and you'll see exactly what I mean...
Everything’s ok and in balance when the music is the priority. But, keep in mind that whenever the EGO takes over, the body becomes tight and nothing feels good musically. This is the difference between focusing on the flow of music, rather than focusing on the beauty of the music.
As musicians we need to have control over our instruments, (that goes without saying). But, if we're trying to recall the shape of a melody line or the layout of a scale pattern, our mind is not on the music, it's on geometry.
So, in wrapping up, keep in mind that the music is everything. The flow and the balance of sound is the key to making us, (as well as, others) feel great when we play!
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