Been Hearing Things

Discussion in 'Fred's Barcalounge' started by MrWookiee, Oct 14, 2021.

  1. MrWookiee

    MrWookiee Country Gent

    Jun 17, 2020
    SoCal, USA
    Lately when I pick up a guitar to noodle around, or pick out some melody I've never played before, it's getting easier to "hear" the pitch(es) I want to play after whatever note I'm playing and have my fingers go to the right string/fret (or within a fret) as if by magic. The "hearing what you want to play before you play it" phenomenon is not new to me but up to very recently doing it on guitar has been elusive. Kinda feels good to noticeably progress, even if only in small increments. Yes, Virginia, practice can indeed make you better. Eventually.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2021
    Duo Slinger, Gregor, Archtops and 8 others like this.
  2. BrianW

    BrianW Country Gent

    Oct 21, 2014
    Vancouver Island
    It's a good thing to be able to notice progress in your own playing. Yes, practise does pay off, but sometimes a little hard to hear it in your own playing. I have heard it suggested one should record a piece then listen to it after a month (whatever) of practise to hear the difference. Haven't tried this myself tbh, but probably should...
  3. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    I call it the brain/finger barrier.
  4. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck I Bleed Orange

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    I read about a fascinating study in the UK involving people paralyzed by an accident. When they imagined doing an activity they physically couldn't now but did previously, such as running, the parts of the brain involved in that activity lit up just like they were really were running. Visualizing what you're going to do primes the pump, stimulating the needed connections, making them ready to actually do it. Eventually it all comes together as the brain remembers those connections. It's often called "muscle memory" but it's really "brain memory."

    Remember when you learned to drive a car? All the little things you had to pay attention to, overwhelming at first. Turned the wheel too far, then not far enough, forgot to signal, didn't look in the mirror. Eventually you figured it out and then it became automatic.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2021
  5. BrianW

    BrianW Country Gent

    Oct 21, 2014
    Vancouver Island
    "Brain memory"... I could be in trouble o_O
  6. NJDevil

    NJDevil Country Gent

    Jul 9, 2014
    Commack, NY
    An experiment was done some years back w/ 2 golfers. One was allowed to play once/week....4x for the month total. The other was tasked to think about the every aspect of the game for at least 2 hours/day every day for the month but was not allowed to touch a club much less swing outside and hit or putt.

    Both players were equal skill level and I think 2 handicappers....pretty good. When the month was over, the scheduled match was proceeded with and the player who spent hours/day with the game solely in his mind shot a 75 while the other shot well but blew up on a few holes and ended up with an 86 or 87.

    The point is that the mental aspect is much greater than I think many imagine. I know my playing is sharper when I think about playing. It gets really detailed to and envision solos and where the next notes will be on the fretboard. I stay sharp.

    Of course though I'd rather play. MrWookie's recent "tasty playing" is something I've been experiencing and I've come to the conclusion it is a mix of the following: 1) 2 new guitars that have the most comfortable necks of any in the herd; 2) new pedals......this means a wave of new tones and experimenting. I am really testing my knowledge and putting it out there. The result? I might've been better than I thought, and; 3) I have reduced playing my usual material of the last 5 years by 90%! New material, new tones, defining what I want to hear and complete focus on the process. If I really am decent, then I'll produce good music that I sought after. I'm very competitive so the task has had promising results so far but I WANT MORE!!!!!
  7. Archtops

    Archtops Country Gent

    Mar 4, 2021
    Same goes for any sport, hobby etc. The better one can visualize, the better the outcome.
  8. NowEarThis

    NowEarThis Gretschie

    Jun 23, 2021
    Northern Rivers NSW Australia
    It's called "Memory Muscle" and you get that from lots of practice/playing. Eventually, those neurons in your head complete the circuits or solidify, and things become second nature. At least, that's what I've heard and it makes sense.
  9. Gregor

    Gregor Country Gent

    That's why you see golfers stand behind the ball with club in hand and look down the fairway. They're visualizing where they want the ball to go....with me however, it's usually in the woods so obviously it doesn’t work for everyone. Just sayin'.
    Duo Slinger, NJDevil and MrWookiee like this.
  10. NJDevil

    NJDevil Country Gent

    Jul 9, 2014
    Commack, NY
    I'll see/call your shot off the tee with the ball in the in the woods and RAISE you with the outcome being the ball ended up between a mama black bear and her 2 cubs.

    I'll never forget when this happened a little over 10 years ago and was so focused on the game that I didn't realize what my predicament actually was. I was frozen, surveyed the options (really none), and eventually visualized what my quickest path out of those woods can be.

    I have never moved so fast and apparently mama bear took note as she was a good 30 yards outside of the tree line by the time I was in the golf cart and I was moving! I was shaking and will tell you that the young lady driving the beverage cart cart got a good deal of business from me.....gave myself a par, started with a double bourbon and 2 beers.

    I know Black Bears are more "even tempered" than brown/Grizzlies but I think getting too close to the cubs is a game changer and my priorities certainly changed.

    Hey, I was on her territory and nature is just doing what nature is programmed to do....I just didn't want to end up in someone's digestive tract!
    new6659, MrWookiee and Archtops like this.
  11. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    I forget how SRV put it but he said it's a major leap when you just sit back, relax and can play the note you hear in your head. I'm kinda there, I can do it sitting here by myself maybe 90% of the time. But put me on stage and I lose focus a bit, forget to play what's in my head and start playing rifs more often. :mad:
  12. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    I have a special disdain for the term “muscle memory”, because muscles don’t possess any memory, whatsoever. “Muscle memory” is more accurately know. As Procedural Memory and whenever we undertake a new task, be it physical or mental, we are building procedural memory.

    If you practice scales, you are building procedural memory, and it trains you to use a certain orderly procedure so that when you play in a given key, you can orient to a specific position and use your fingers in a predictable, repeatable manner. Of course, there are many scale forms which mesh along the fingerboard. But, when we have the procedural memories we have prepared, we can play our melodies and lead lines much more easily.

    I would venture that the preponderant portion of my practice is mental. On occasion, I’ll find myself mentally playing a song mentally, thinking about fingerings, and at times improving my fingerings, without ever touching a guitar.
    Henry, NJDevil and MrWookiee like this.
  13. wabash slim

    wabash slim I Bleed Orange

    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    Scales. They may be a PITA when you're starting out, but, they'll come in handy later.
    NJDevil and MrWookiee like this.
  14. NJDevil

    NJDevil Country Gent

    Jul 9, 2014
    Commack, NY
    Yes, and I'm a pentatonic minor junky! However, I have reprogrammed my approach the last few years that has expanded my soloing abilities and dynamics.

    A nod to Synchro here for "procedural memory". I concede all playing until I learn the melody and have command of the chords. I then play the chords and all "information" around the chords....the notes on the fretboard....variations that still support the melody. I fight to learn where all the notes are....those I need immediately and those that will provide tasty options to my solos ....sevenths, triads and as much as I can learn around the chords that shape the melody. And then the fun begins when I think I've maximized the potential for all options until I stumble upon something that is ultimately a hybrid of all that went in to procedural memory.
    Henry likes this.
  15. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    Macro memory, or macro messaging? Taken from computers. Your brain gets used to giving the same set of instructions that you no longer have to consciously remember each part, but only the whole. Kinda like your brain is creating macro commands.
    MrWookiee and NJDevil like this.
  16. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    It’s the best investment you can ever make, towards the future of your playing.

    I’ve heard all of the excuses, my personal favorite being “when I solo, I want to play music, not scales”. Then they trot down the path of some shopworn Blues phrase that they usually butcher, and that is hardly the epitome of creativity.

    I had played for about 10 years, and forgotten any good technique I had ever learned, when I encountered a fellow, only a few years my senior, who had been classically trained, and then had branched out to Jazz answer Country. I was a pretty serious player, but he cut me to ribbons. I spent the next 6 months woodshedding the scales in the Johnny Smith Approach, usually hating it, but I knew that it was doing me good, so I stuck it out. It opened up a whole new world for me.

    I tend to map the neck using triad inversions, such as:

    xx222x, xx765x, xx11910x or laterally, x776xx, xx765x, xxx655 (for an A Maj triad).

    There are scale forms which superimpose over all of these, be they minor pentatonics, Major pentatonics, diatonic Majors, or even some minors, such as a melodic minor played 1/2 step over the chord. (example: Bb melodic minor played from A-A over an A Major triad).

    For Blues, these days, I tend to use a lot of Pentatonic Majors. If I play the 7th degree, I play it as a blue note, but if I play the third, I usually keep it Major. It works well for me.

    I think that the process of learning a song could be a window into the human psyche. For me, it’s like learning a new neighborhood. If you visit someplace unfamiliar, you start out with only the most rudimentary orientation, but as time passes, you make connections, find shortcuts and eventually you fill in every detail, to the point that there are no surprises left.

    Every song I learn works exactly the same way. I start out having to think every step through, but eventually, it requires no conscious effort.

    When it comes to learning a new song, I find that simply playing the melody is the best starting point. That seems to “suggest” the chord changes and soon I can sense the rhythm and the bass parts.

    As I write this, the neighborhood I lived is as a teen comes vividly into my mind. We were in a fairly secluded enclave, with not many through streets, and between my running, my driving and my bike riding, I knew the area like the back of my hand. I knew which houses had cool cars parked out front, I knew aggressive dogs were and I got to where I noticed even subtle changes; a new gate on someone’s fence, a new garbage can or if someone bought a new car.

    If I compare that to a song I’ve played for years, it’s much the same. I don’t have to even think about it; the song just flows from my fingers to the strings, to the ear. Ideas occur, while I’m playing, and eventually, the logic of the song finds its expression in all sorts of different ways.

    I once watched a video of Albert Lee being asked to do an impromptu recording session. They play the song for him and he played along to get the changes into his head; then they rolled tape. He delivered a memorable performance, in one take, and then it was over, as if he had put forth no more mental exertion than had he taken out the garbage; the difference being that this recording would be of lasting value.

    For my purposes, that is the goal.

    That’s an excellent explanation. It is exactly that. When I play a scale, that is, essentially, a macro. Now, I can choose to only play certain notes of that scale, but the fingering comes straight out of the scale form, which is the “macro”. When I learn a melody, or a series of chord voicings, that is a macro of sorts, too.

    One thing I find fascinating, and it’s been the case since I was in my early 20s, is that I have a harder time remembering the name of a song, than I do remembering how to play that song. I’m most likely to have my memory spurred by remembering what key I do it in.
    MrWookiee, loudnlousy and NJDevil like this.
  17. NJDevil

    NJDevil Country Gent

    Jul 9, 2014
    Commack, NY
    I wrote a way to long narrative so I'll just condense to the Cliffs notes.

    Great insight and I want to say I employ similar systems. I never read music (except in grade school when I played trombone). I do not really know all that many chord names....I know the chords, their shapes, and what they do and different ways I've used and will use them. I started by playing over BB King and Pink Floyd records...vinyl...note-by-note.

    Back to chords....I really don't care that much about them at first as the first step is the melody, #2 is finding the right chords, #3 is making the song work, #4 is learning the information around the chords to provide room to expand. I stress that I must know what the notes will give me around the fretboard....There is simply no such thing as knowing the fretboard too well......there's just varying degrees of efficiently getting to where I want to go. I create shapes but the reasoning behind them have to do with the song.

    I play then take note, play more, take notes, etc.... In summary, I create a theory of how I will play a song. It is visual and very much employ the idea of "neighborhoods" that you mentioned. But the theory comes first and part of the whole theory is the ability to break the song down into parts. I need to know all of the streets of all of the neighborhoods in my county.....done? to the next county until we run out of land. I create a roadmap. Then I science, if the results of the experiment agree with theory, then the results are recorded and on to the next part. So, it does make sense that I study physics as an on/off hobby. My hero here is the late Dr. Richard Feynman.

    Playing clean is the only way I can learn the song and it is not unusual for me to learn all electric guitar parts of a song first on an acoustic. I want to hear it. I want to know mistakes. I want to know what works.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2021
    new6659 and Gregor like this.
  18. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Gretschified

    Oct 18, 2015
    My playing routine changed a lot during the last 20 years. Some things changed for the better and some things changed for the worse.
    Before I had a wife and a kid I used to play every day. Noodling on the couch, doing home-recording, playing in the studio, rehearsing with the boys or playing live.
    At that point of time I felt very comfortable with my playing.
    I could play everything that was needed/I could imagine in my small pop/rock/blues world.

    After that point in time I had drastically less time to play my instrument and lost a lot of my musical self-confidence .
    Since then my guitar-playing-technique is not stagnating but getting worse.

    But out of this emergency situation I developed a new skill: I am able to learn a new song (or even a technically demanding solo) by hearing it and analyzing/visualising it while driving my car or doing other things that do not demand all too much attention like walking or doing garden-work. I don`t have to touch my guitar anymore to learn new stuff.
    When doing projects like the Kiss cover show or the Scorpions cover show in 2018 and 2019 I managed to learn complete sets in a very short period of time and touching my guitar the first time at band-rehearsal.
    Worked without problems for me.

    Proves that there are obviously two ways to practise: Playing your guitar physically or mentally. Both ways have a positive effect on your skills.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2021
    new6659 likes this.
  19. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    At least for me, the metaphor of learning a new area holds up well. Theory, especially chord scale relationships and tone centers, provide a way of organizing what is happening in songs and helps to illustrate the common threads which virtually every song shares with many other songs.

    Returning to the metaphor of mentally mapping a neighborhood, there are common elements that appear in almost every neighborhood. The neighborhood I live in now has very little in common with the suburb of Denver I lived in as a teen, but both have streets that intersect at 90 degrees with stop signs where a side street meets a through street. Knowing how that lovely neighborhood in suburban Denver was organized provides insight into how a desert neighborhood in rural Arizona is organized.

    The same basic organizational principles (for a neighborhood) that I learned as a small child, growing up in a northern tier state have found applicability everywhere else I have lived. I didn’t have to relearn the basic principles of how neighborhoods are organized every time I moved to a new locale. I may well have had to learn some adaptations which are required because of local terrain, but the underlying principles remain the same.

    For example, in Minnesota, snow accumulated all winter and there was a relatively fast period of melting snow, which made drainage a challenge. Because of this, there were deep ditches on both sides of the road, and large metal culverts to allow those ditches to drain under crossroads. In Denver. Snows usually melted within a few days, and drainage was accomplished with swales, so there were dips in side streets where drainage could be accomplished. When my parents moved to metro Denver, they had to learn to cross those dips slowly to avoid a jarring event. In Arizona, snow is a rare exception and not a concern of road design. The sandy soil here will not support deep ditches, so drainage during monsoons is pretty much a matter of letting water run down the streets, until it drains into the natural terrain features. Different local conditions influence the application of design principles.

    Likewise, the organizational principles of music hold true across genres. V chords resolve to I chords in many, many songs. Major and minor tone centers weave through many songs, sometimes subtly. How many songs use the Andalusian Cadence? Walk, Don’t Run, Stray Cat Strut, and innumerable others. The commonalities of many songs allow us to utilize the familiar elements across many songs. The trick is in learning to spot these common elements, and for me, the more I learned about chord-scale relationships, the more they became obvious.

    These principles are applied with regard to the specific song, and can be tailored accordingly, to avoid all songs sounding the same, but still, at the theoretical level, there are relatively few unique patterns which are adapted to many songs.
    new6659 and NJDevil like this.
  20. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    That’s a great skill. A friend of mine had been inactive as a pilot for over a decade, when he decided to take some dual instruction and become current again. This was before PC Flight Simulators were common, but he literally flew mentally for a short amount of time daily, in the days leading up to his dual instruction. As I recall, they signed off on him after two hours, which was amazingly fast, because he had bright his mind up to currency by just thinking through flights mentally.

    I once had a friend that would occasionally ask; “ok, what song are you playing?” It was an accurate question, because I would occasionally disengage from conversation while I was mentally playing a song. This one friend had learned to recognize this, even though I wasn’t revealing anything verbally. A former student would mentally process songs and I could see it in her face. She was, essentially, in a meditative state when she played. I recently posted a thread about Meagan Taylor, Chet Atkin’s niece, and if you watch videos of her playing, you will see the same thing, because she is concentrating deeply throughout the videos. It shows on her face and leads me to think that she is using processes which are most likely common to any number of good players.

    That mental state may even be one of the reasons people play music. Back when I was an active pilot, I recognized that the second the wheels left the ground, I forgot my troubles and concentrated on my flight. I actually felt that flying was very relaxing. It was a way of stopping the inner dialogue and getting my mind to a more focused state. Music does the same thing.

    Interestingly, my current occupation has the same effect. Yesterday I had to make some significant network changes, and even though the work was hard, I was very happy while I was doing it. My mind was completely focused on the logic of what I was doing and I felt very calm and very focused. I received two phone calls during that time, and in both cases, my reverie was broken, but as soon as I was mentally back into the work I ahead of me, I was in a very pleasant state.

    Music, like many other useful pursuits, starts in the mind.
    NJDevil, loudnlousy and new6659 like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.