Friday, October 17, 2008

Free Music Lesson #1 "Unwanted muscle tension"

This will be the first in a series of weekly music lessons I hope to post on this blog.  I'm a guitarist and banjo player so it will obviously lean in that direction but I hope to get into practice strategies as well as technique issues.  In fact, I think I'll start it off on that note... terrible.   

One of the biggest issues with my students and one that I strive to continually refine in my own playing is unwanted muscle tension.  This is not a very easy to define issue but its basically as it sounds.  Your muscles are tense blocking your ability to play what you want to play.  Most people are unaware of it even happening as they play, but I assure you 99.99999% of the students I see have a significant problem with this.  Several accomplished musicians I've seen have it to.  The great players realized this early on and worked to fix it.  

Watch a great guitarist of any genere.  Doc Watson in folk/bluegrass, John Williams in classical, Eddie Van Halen in rock.  These dudes play really, really, light and relaxed.  You can too.  How?  Try this...

  1. Slow down!  Way down, slower than you think.  Most unwanted tension develops as a player struggles to get the notes out before they've actually learned the music.  Every finger movement must be memorized.  And it must be learned SLOWLY.
  2. Play the music as slow as you need for it to feel smooth and effortless.  If you screw up ask why, don't just plow ahead.
  3. Try working with a metronome at slow speeds while playing scales or an exercise.  Play as fluid as you can.  Strive to feel what its like to play as loose as possible.  Go slow!
  4. Speed, Speed, Speed, we all want it.  How do you get it?  By having %100 control over what you're doing.  If you can't play it slow, you'll never play it fast.  BTW, the highest levels of speed take years to devolpe.
Hope that helps.  Check back next week.

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