Learning the guitar doesn't always have to be a hands-on affair. Sure you need it to practice, but what about when your guitar is not near you? Can you still learn? The answer is yes, because you already have an incredible asset. One that is not used creatively enough - your mind. More specifically, your mind's eye. This is your most under used tool you have at your disposal. And best of all its free...
You can use this tool any time, for anything. And just like physically practising the guitar, with a little practice, you can tap into the huge potential that is there for you. Start by recalling what you had for lunch yesterday. Would you say it was a sandwich or when you say it, you not only spoke the word but saw an image of the sandwich itself at the same time?
Or what colour is a Zebra? Of course you would say black and white, but do you see an image of a zebra as well. This is how you retain and recall information – through images. Your mind recalls things/events in images more so than words. Even when the mind recalls words you see an image. Pick a word like guitar, to see what happens for you. It maybe faint but it's there.
Now you can apply this to learning things on your guitar. So try this exercise. Choose a chord that you want to learn let's say it's G7. Start small at first, get results, build confidence and then expand and move to something larger.
When you first learn that chord its usually from a chord diagram. A box shape with suggested fingerings and the strings you play with that chord. Without your guitar in your hands, take that one chord and study the shape of it from the chord diagram. See where your fingers are to be placed. Say to yourself I need to put this finger on this string, this finger here at this fret, and I must play these strings when I strum the chord.
Give yourself a few minutes to really lock it into your memory. Repeat it over and over as much as you need to. Then close your eyes and do your best to recall where your fingers need to go. Recall the image of the chord diagram in your mind's eye as best as you can. Don't be concerned if you can't see it straight away. This will get better the more practice you do like this. Keep referring back to the diagram if you need to.
Now when the image in your mind is becoming clearer, get up and walk around for a couple of minutes – all the while keeping the image in your mind but this time see yourself playing the new chord on your guitar. (This is still all in your head). Look at where your fingers are landing on the strings. Your fingers are likely to follow the image in your mind and make the shape themselves. This is exactly what you're after. Keep repeating this over and over for at least five minutes.
Once you have done this, pick up your guitar and place your fingers in position of the chord. Did your fingers go the right position? If so, great! If not, refer back to the image/picture diagram. See the connection here? The mind is your most under-used tool. Like practising your guitar you can only get better by doing it. Once this is easier for you, you can do this wherever you are – in the car, at the shops or in the shower.
If you make this a daily habit, one when you can't be near your guitar, you will discover with time that you can recall and play much more than you can currently remember. The best thing about mind recall, or visualisation as it's commonly referred too, is that you already do it everyday. You are born with this ability at birth. You have it. All you have to do is too learn to enhance and strengthen it through practice to your advantage.
Allen Hopgood has been playing guitar for over three and a half decades. He is the Director of a guitar teaching business that helps guitar students, just like you everyday, to becoming the best guitar players they can be, making it the best source of guitar lessons on the Gold Coast of Australia.