I went to a job interview of sorts on Thursday. It lasted from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.. It was a position where I could have made a great deal of money (easily double my previous income to start) but which required about 20 hours of overtime a week. If I were about ten years younger, I might actually think about something like that, but at this point I am pretty sure that I don’t have it in me to work that many hours -and especially not with a two hour commute each way. But damn I need a job.
I have realized, albeit about ten years too late, why I was never able to really excel at playing the guitar: I had been trying entirely too hard. I walked into the living room yesterday, picked up the guitar, and belted out part of Yngwie Malmsteen’s song Eclipse. Instead of concentrating on the notes and mashing the string to the fret, I just let my mind tell my fingers where to go (which doesn’t really do much to explain the actual difference). The difference was night and day. I have had the notes memorized for years, my fingers have always known exactly where they had to be on the fingerboard to play them, I just lacked the ability to make my mind connect with my fingers. The problem was that I was trying to use my eyes as a tool to make the two meet, but the eyes are not as fast as the mind, and the fingers are frequently behind the eyes (which I know doesn’t make any sense, but bear with me), which was leading to a lot of notes getting played at the wrong time, or not at all. Once I removed my eyes from the equation and trusted my mind to get my fingers where I knew they needed to be, it just came out. The epiphany that I really needed a decade ago, when I really cared about music, finally comes when I am only playing for amusement. Perfect.
If you are a guitarist and have been playing long enough that you can get your fingers to any given fret by feel, yet seem to have problems with particular riffs, just make sure you aren’t looking. Your mind can move your fingers a hell of a lot quicker than your eyes can, but you have to trust that your mind knows what it is doing -a real stretch for me- to be successful. I mean, don’t be envisioning the neck of the guitar in your head while you are playing, in fact, think of something else if necessary to make sure that your mind is making your fingers move without any visual cues. Trust me, and trust yourself, once you are able to do that you will become infinitely better. It is sort of like typing; I haven’t had to actually think about where the keys were for years, my thoughts just appear on the screen with an absolute minimum of intervention from the eyes (I do occasionally have to look down to see where some of the keys are, & and $ for example.). The guitar needs to be the same way, and if there is an occasional “typo”, so be it. The typos will dwindle with time and you will find that you are far better than you had ever thought possible.