Hey everybody, happy 2016!
After all the celebrations I would like to start off the new year by sharing with you two little “secrets”, two tips to immediately improve your guitar playing that have seriously helped me in my guitar playing.
They are two simple tricks that, like all simple things, really work. These can make a HUGE difference in your performance.
Would you like to know what they are?
Here we go:
1) Play Light
Practicing to “play light” is unfortunately mostly a neglected aspect by most of us guitar players and musicians in general.
This occurred to me about a year ago, watching a video of Stochelo Rosenberg. He is an incredible fast player but yet he looks so relaxed when he plays!
Especially when we play something that we find difficult or very fast, we tend to tense up and put too much pressure on the strings.
Of course with a tense hand and with a lot of pressure on the guitar neck, that is going to make it even harder to play: it is a paradox, but the more difficult a piece of music or a solo is, the more we tend to tense up and therefore go in the total opposite direction of what we want to do, which is playing smoothly and in a relaxed manner.
On the other hand, when we are relaxed and playing light we can achieve more speed and a smoother sound.
So, what do I mean exactly by “playing light”?
Try this: Press down on any fret on your guitar as hard as you can (literally you need to see your finger become slightly “white”) and keep picking that string that you are pressing on.
Now very slowly keep releasing the pressure until just before it starts buzzing.
This is all the pressure you need to get the sound out of your string, nothing more!
What’s the need of pressing down so hard? It is only going to make it a lot more difficult for you to play.
So, it is very useful to keep this in mind as often as you can when you practice, and slowly change your habit. Hopefully playing your guitar feels a lot easier already.
Now, how to apply this when you are playing a gig? How to immediately switch to “playing light” when you realize you are pressing to hard and making to much unnecessary effort?
This is when the second tip comes in:
2) Right Breathing
A couple of years ago I was having a wander in Camden Market here in London, when I came across a small book stall. A book immediately captured my attention, it was “Musician’s Yoga“, by Mia Olson. As I am massively into yoga and massively into music, I didn’t think twice before buying it.
Unfortunately I only managed to read one single chapter of the book as I then lent it to a friend and never saw the book again :/ , but that one chapter had a very valuable piece of information. It was about breathing: according to the book (and I agree), when playing something that we find challenging, we generally start holding our breath. This, it goes without saying, makes us tense and it makes it even harder for us to play properly.
So, when we notice that we start holding our breath, Mia Olson suggests to consciously start breathing with our diaphragm. In other words, it means breathing so that your belly rises when you inhale, and it sinks when you exhale.
I have found a very good article that explains this technique properly.
I have tried it and I can guarantee it works. I also have seen it work on tens of my students.
When we start breathing that way, our body instantly relaxes and all of a sudden it become a lot easier to play. So this second tip, right breathing, helps implement the first tip i gave you, play light!
The next time you notice yourself being really tense when you play, start breathing with your diaphragm, keep playing, relax and adjust the pressure of your fingers trying to be as light as possible.
I really hope these two tips to immediately improve your guitar playing help you and they will make you an even better player.
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