Fingers

A photographer from Left Lion took our picture yesterday outside the Malt Cross on St James Street, and I think this will be appearing in the next issue of the magazine in a feature where bands comment on Nottingham music venues.

The photographer tried to get shots of us ‘looking like a band’ but most of the time we were grinning and gurning or otherwise not looking moody and mean into the camera like most bands do.  F*ck that.

On my To Do List today:-

i) good sleep                                                                 √

ii) write blog                                                                  √

iii) guitar – play song/work on songs + exercises        √

iv) analyse hand history from last night                        √ (half done)

v) watch instruction video                                             

vi) take dogs out

vii) make food

viii) go gym and go work

I added up the time it would take to do all these things and it totalled seven hours! So I would have to get up at ten to even have a chance to get it all done.

I follow a specific routine for guitar which pays dividends.  After a couple of warm up exercises to get my fingers moving up and down the fretboard, I pick a song to work on (cover or original idea) and identify the scale being used in it.  Usually this will be a straightforward major scale, often with one or two extra notes.  Pick out the scale on the guitar – in one position at first, then multiple positions if you have the time – and sing or hum the notes along.  Up and down the scale, repeatedly.  Now stop playing the guitar and sing the scale on your own.  Its difficult at first to get all the notes right, particularly for unusual scales.

Play the scale, play and sing, sing the scale on your own, play and sing.

The aim of the exercise is not brilliant singing.  The aim is to put your ear before your fingers.  There are two ideas behind this:-

i) you cannot or should not be able to play something before you can hear it in your head, or imagine it.

ii) Hearing music in your head is the same thing as singing it.

So what you’re doing when you play the scale, then sing and play simultaneously, is teaching your mind to hear the scale.  Then your mind can repeat the notes without any help from the guitar. 

This approach is very different from simply teaching your fingers to play the scale – that might be a purely mechanical exercise without you having to hear any music.

When you’ve completed the exercise you will be able to ‘play’ the scale inside your mind as well as on the fretboard.  You’ve forged a bond between what your fingers are doing and what you’re hearing in your mind.

The dividends of your hard work are realised when the process works the other way.  Now the bond you’ve created means that there is no delay between imagining a phrase and playing it with your fingers.  You can play something as soon as you think of it, and therefore you don’t feel that you have to think at all.  It just happens.

So improvisation flows very easily.  And when away from the guitar, and you have a musical idea, its easy to see in your mind’s eye where your fingers will be on the fretboard.

The more often I work at it, the more I get out of it.  It takes just a few minutes every day to work on perhaps one scale in one position, but this is enough to maintain the bond between my fingers and my musical ear.  After a good session I can just take off on the guitar and play for a while in a very relaxed and pleasing way, and sometimes come up with a new song.

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