Guitar: Changing Bad Habits
(Oops! Missed Part One? Click here)
Understanding and Allowing the Step by Step Process
You must understand that your ability to effectively
change bad habits is
going to depend completely upon how deeply and truly
you understand the
fundamental mechanics of the process of playing the
guitar, and the process
of "practicing" the guitar, meaning the actual process
of how we teach the
mind and body new things. If you do not have a
understanding of these things, you will not be able to
change bad habits.
I hope you realize the importance of what I just said!
I suggest you read it
over a few times, and think about it. I suggest you
take some serious time
right now, and in the next days and weeks to size
yourself up, and answer
this question "Do I feel like I have a sufficient
understanding of the
mechanics of playing the guitar so that I know how to
practice in a way that
will "change bad habits", which means "solve problems"
which really means
"fix bad things about my playing".
And the reason I am saying this is because so many
people write to me and
ask me the simple, basic question "how do I change
this bad habit of mine"?
Or, they may be asking the question in reverse. They
may ask a question
like "how can I play faster", which is really saying
"how can I get rid of the
elements of my present playing technique (a bad habit)
that are preventing
me from playing as fast as other people play", so it
is really the same
So my point is this: if you do not have sufficient
understanding of how things
work, of what really happens when you sit down to
practice, then you will not
be able to change bad habits. So if this is the case,
there is no answer to
such a question. The answer to this question, for a
person without the
sufficient understanding is "you can't change that bad
Then, of course, the real answer, the necessary next
step, is to go and GET
that understanding, and learn how to do the kind of
practice that is based on
that understanding. THEN, we can talk.
So, the real answer to the question is " the way you
get to be able to change
bad habits is by understanding how you got them in the
first place". If you
can understand that Muscle Memory put that bad habit
there, while you were
busy spending hours practicing with your shoulder
tense, or your wrist and
hand tensed up, then you will see that Muscle Memory
will also change, or
rather, allow you to REPLACE the bad habit with a new,
and better one. If,
that is, you know how to summon the mental focus
necessary to make that
happen, if you know how to become aware of, and stay
aware of, what you
were not aware of before.
Now understand this. It is often extremely difficult
for me to get results from a
person sitting in front of me, to get them to REALLY
have this mental
intensity, pay that much attention, and keep doing
that in their daily practice
at home. It can be extremely difficult to get someone
to REALLY be aware of
what they are actually doing when they play, even what
they actually sound
like! And I have no hope of getting results with
someone if I cannot move
them to that level of intensity.
That is why I am always so happy when someone writes
and tells me of
progress they are making using my methods. It proves
to me that people
CAN be moved to that intensity long-distance, as it
But I am going through all this to really drive a
point home to all the people
with one of the "how can I change bad habits" type
questions. You can't,
unless the level of your understanding of all aspects
of the process is
sufficiently deep! So make sure it is, and continue to
deepen it. The way to
do that is to educate yourself, by reading my
writings, and any other sources
you discover that are out there, and also to
constantly THINK for yourself,
experiment, observe, draw conclusions, and
re-experiment in your practice.
It just happens ( the devil made me do it) !!!
There is a statement that students will often exclaim,
and it is a big tip-off
that they DO NOT HAVE the sufficiently deep
understanding that I am
referring to. That statement is, when referring to
some bad behavior a finger
may be exhibiting, "I can't help it, it just happens
This statement shows that the person is the
unfortunate victim of the
dynamics of the practice process, such as Muscle
Memory, instead of being
the master of those dynamics, so that Muscle Memory is
put to work for us,
instead of against us. The person who has the
MAKES the right thing happen because they can do two
things: they can
summon the strong Intention and Attention (mental
focus) necessary to make
the correct thing happen, and they can have the
stillness of mind and body
required to do real No Tempo Practice and Posing,
which will erase old
muscle memory and replace it with new, improved muscle
A strong mental focus, and the stillness of mind and
body I am talking about,
make your practice sufficiently deep, sufficiently
powerful to change bad
habits, or in fact, acquire good ones. I call this
"the bottom of your practice".
If the bottom of your practice is not deep enough,
your practice will have no
effect. Essentially, most of what I do with students
is simply to deepen the
bottom of their practice for them, and try to get them
to be able to keep it
that deep for themselves.
So, if you have that "it just happens" feeling, well,
now you know what it really
means, and what to do about it.
Take Things In The Proper Order
Once you have begun to get this deep understanding,
you will be able to
take certain aspects of playing the guitar in their
proper order. You are not
going to address the issue of how your hands and
fingers function until you
have addressed the issue of something more
fundamental, like how you sit
with the instrument, and how aware you are of your
body in general while
playing. If you don't know that the way you are
sitting and positioning your
arms is forcing you to tense muscles needed to play,
you will always be
working with a handicap that limits your progress.
Unfortunately, I have found
this to be the case MOST of the time with players.
The remedy here is to CONSTANTLY EXAMINE the
fundamentals of your
playing. Your sitting, hand positions, finger action,
pick action, etc. Observe,
think, analyze, experiment, repeat the process in
every practice session. DO
NOT TAKE THE FUNDAMENTALS FOR GRANTED.
Once your understanding of the mechanics of playing
and practicing are
sufficiently deep to allow you to see things in the
right order of importance,
and you have addressed the necessary fundamentals,
begin to get specific
about the other elements of playing technique.
Whatever level of player you
are, begin to get a clear focus on your weak areas,
and BE SPECIFIC!
Always Set The Proper Next Goal
Once you are able to get this specific, see into the
heart of some flaw in your
technique, and are able to approach it in a
fundamental and effective
manner, it is now just a matter of continuing that
process, and setting one
goal after another.
When you work on a fundamental, such as the one
described above, you
make it a project that may last anywhere from a month,
to several months, or
even a year. You hammer at that aspect of your
technique relentlessly. You
do whatever exercises you know that will help, if
properly practiced. You
make up exercises that will help, if properly
practiced. You use the actual
passage that gave rise to the whole "investigation".
You take note of and
measure your progress and results.
Once you see that bad habit begin to weaken, and new
habits come through
in your playing, you ask yourself, "ok, what is the
next worst thing about my
playing, what is the next fundamental aspect of
playing that is underlying
various trouble spots in my repertoire". Find it, and
go after it.
Get and Keep the Correct Attitude
The final point I want to make in considering the
subject of changing bad
habits, which is another way of saying creating
Vertical Growth as players, is
the adoption and full acceptance of the CORRECT
ATTITUDE of someone
desiring to achieve their full potential. And that is
the attitude of ABSOLUTE
OPENNESS about yourself, about you as a guitar player,
and about the
endless possibilities of things you have yet to learn.
Here are the attributes
of someone who has this correct attitude:
They don't get upset when they discover some major
flaw in their playing,
they become curious and interested.
They don't feel sorry for themselves when they begin
to clearly see the
source of some problem in playing, and realize that it
could have been
avoided if someone pointed it out, or they had noticed
it themselves (that
tensed up shoulder they have been playing with for
years). They are thankful
that they finally see it, and resolve to set about
integrating the new
awareness into all their playing, right away. They are
in fact, happy, every
time they begin to become aware of how wrong they have
been about some
aspect of their playing and practicing approach.
Whenever I have one of my "wow, what an idiot I've
been" moments, I am
always very happy. Now I know I am on the verge of
becoming an even
better player than I am now. How could that upset me.
And this is something all of you can say at such
times. Make sure you do.
Make sure you keep the feeling of excitement and
gratitude if you read
something, by me or someone else, and it makes you
realize that you have
been missing something in your understanding and
approach to the guitar.
Do not get whinny and negative because something has
come along to
upset the nice opinion you have managed to create and
yourself as a guitarist!
And make sure you maintain that attitude of
excitement, discovery and
gratitude every day on your path of development as a
guitarist, musician and
artist. It is an endless journey, and those who have
gone farthest know that
Copyright © 2000 Jamie Andreas
Click here for more of Jamie's articles
Copyright 2002 Jamie Andreas.
Jamie’s provocative writings examine all aspects of becoming a true musician…the technical/physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Guitar virtuoso, recording artist, composer, and teacher of 30 years, Jamie is recognized by music experts around the globe for her major contribution to the advancement of guitar education.
Her method book, “The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar” (1999) continues to bring the highest acclaim, world renowned as “The International Bible For Guitarists”, and the “Holy Grail Of Guitar Books.” With a straight forward writing style, her tried and true, result-oriented guitar book powerfully reveals the correct practice methods that no other book has revealed…taking the student from the beginning stages all the way to the highest levels of virtuosity.
Jamie is already familiar to aspiring guitar players, as her wisdom is present throughout the Web on all major guitar sites, including her own. Visit: www.guitarprinciples.com
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