Guitar Theory and Mental Mapping : Post 3

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Practicing in your head

When I started playing guitar, one of the first things I learnt was the solo to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son by Iron Maiden.

Being young and new to my instrument, thoughts of the guitar consumed me.

Even when I didn’t have a guitar in my hand, I’d run through this solo in my head, picturing the fretboard, imagining each finger hitting each fret, hearing each note.

Pretty soon, I noticed that this form of mental practice was actually really useful:

  • I learnt the notes quickly
  • It made me think about my fingering and whether there were better options than what I was using
  • It made me sing the solo in my head and really highlight if I knew what I was trying to play

Just thinking about doing something enforces your ability to do it (I’m sure there’s a useful life lesson in there somewhere).

A mental map

I believe that a mental image is one of the keys to becoming a fantastic musician.

Two examples:

  1. If you wish to play fast but your guitar playing relies on you seeing your fingers then eventually a barrier will occur when your fingers move faster than your eye can see.
  2. I am predominantly an acoustic player and love trying to play multiple lines (bass, melody, middle line) together – I could never achieve this by looking at my fingers but must see and hear the fingering and musical lines in my mind.

Being able to play without looking at the fretboard is also the coolest way to play guitar (sorry Brian May)

Learning Shapes and building a mental map

When it comes to learning scale and arpeggio shapes and target notes, mental practice is invaluable.

Without the distraction of the guitar in your hands, you can really focus on the shapes and avoid getting caught in the trap of endlessly training your fingers to go up and down scales.

When you’ve learnt the shapes in your mind, by the time you get to practice with your instrument, you can really work on the challenge of getting music out of those shapes.

As you learn more shapes, they begin to interconnect and intertwine and you build a mental map of the fretboard in your mind.

With this in mind, I was inspired to put together a series of apps which enable you to learn theory whilst away from your instrument.

Find out more about these apps here

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