Try this: non-judgemental practice.
How does one perform non-judgemental practice on guitar?
First off, like any other thing you do, it is a matter of your mindset. Perseverance in putting your mind/thoughts back on track when you notice them having slipped away is the key. It’s just like meditation or mindfulness.
‘Like any other thing you do, it is a matter of your mindset.’
A daily routine of doing this for just 15 minutes will change how you view your playing and will help your creativity, put you more at ease, and guide you toward the true point of playing.
Focus on the ACT of playing and enjoy every note played, or not played. Leave the good or bad judgements behind for another time.
It’s fine for a thought, positive or negative, to enter your mind while doing this. It’s quite natural. But don’t feed it. Acknowledge the thought and move on, don’t judge it.
It is nice to feel good and give yourself a pat on the back when you do things well, but in this case try to minimize your time spent doing that. Enjoy the moment for what it is, pure musical fun, not a commentary on how wonderful the Vai lick you just did sounded.
Maybe “sounded” is the wrong word. Because you should concentrate on the SOUND. That way you’ll get really good at the process of constantly making a great sound. Reaching a level of consistency in your focus is the most important thing you can ever do.
‘Focus on the ACT of playing and enjoy every note played, or not played. Leave the good or bad judgements behind for another time.’
By the same token, don’t chide yourself when you don’t play as well as your ego deems necessary. What you are trying to do is stay with it. It’s not a good or bad thing, it’s a staying in the moment thing with no judgement. Doing this, you can concentrate on working on just one thing.
The best improvisers are there. Join them. It takes practice, but it’s fun practice, worthwhile practice. And remember, no judgements about anything … even that you’re doing it. Let the thoughts, whatever they may be, pass through and move on.
‘No judgements about anything … Let the thoughts, whatever they may be, pass through and move on.’
Stay in the Moment
Working this way you can focus on just one phrase, lick or idea, allowing it to become a part of you. Even in the beginning stages of working on whatever it is, don’t get frustrated or upset; acknowledge where weaknesses are and move to eliminate them.
Getting in this mindset puts what you are working on into the correct perspective within yourself. You’ll catch a lot of things you do, too, such as holding your breath and possibly creating weird tones (although that is subjective, and that is what this is about) because of not thinking about your sound.
‘Don’t get frustrated or upset; acknowledge where weaknesses are and move to eliminate them.’
This seems simple, and maybe it is to some. But for me and I would guess most people, it is something that needs to be constantly attended to, which is the whole point. You’ll find it will help your concentration while on stage or when writing or recording.
Learn to lose your inner voice when playing. It’s like looking at the stars. Don’t concern yourself with what they are, they’re everything. Just enjoy the glow.
About the Author
Tom Yoder is a FretboardZen instructor living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He is a G.I.T. graduate and was a Coastal Carolina University instructor for 20 years.
Tom is also a two-time Independent Music Awards winner. He teaches privately, both in person and via the web, performs solo and in his band The New Rotics, and writes, produces, records and engineers his own music. And he does session work via the Internet and in person for anyone who will hire him. He is Apple Certified in Logic Pro X and Avid Certified in Pro Tools.