Ev­ery month, Justin Sander­coe of justin­gui­ lends GT his in­sight as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful guitar teach­ers. In his fourth col­umn, Justin looks at play­ing what you hear.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Justin Sander­coe’s new col­umn; plus Ses­sion Shenani­gans, Jam Tracks and more.

This month I want to delve into the mys­ti­cal world of ‘play­ing what you hear’, what it re­ally means, how I think it might work and how you can de­velop it.

So to start with, what is hear­ing mu­sic? Think about your favourite guitar solo in your mind. Can you hear the notes? Can you hear the rhythm? Can you imag­ine the tone? Like most things I think the learn­ing to ‘hear in your imag­i­na­tion’ is a skill that can be prac­ticed by do­ing it; a lit­tle time each day imag­in­ing riffs, licks or lines is a great way to de­velop it. If you can sing what you hear in your imag­i­na­tion you can be sure it’s prop­erly in there (and I highly rec­om­mend try­ing to sing, even if you’re not a con­fi­dent vo­cal­ist).

So how does be­ing able to ‘hear in your imag­i­na­tion’ help you play guitar bet­ter? I have a great lit­tle ex­er­cise I give to any new stu­dents you might like to try that will ex­plain it. Put your first fin­ger on the 8th fret, third string, then play Happy Birth­day while stay­ing in po­si­tion (not go­ing up and down one string). We all know how that song goes so if you can’t do it then there is a dis­con­nect be­tween your ‘imag­i­na­tion’ and your hand that could use some work! If you found that one easy, pick an­other song that is slightly more dif­fi­cult (jazz stan­dard melody?) and try again some­where else on the neck. If you can play all the melodies you can think of, then you’re do­ing it for real – you’re play­ing what you imag­ine and I be­lieve that to be the purest of ex­pres­sion – and, if you can, con­grat­u­la­tions!

If you found it dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble, like most peo­ple do (and I did) then you can work on it. Again, the so­lu­tion is prac­tise. I start al­most ev­ery prac­tice ses­sion with 10 min­utes of ‘play­ing my imag­i­na­tion’ and over the last few years, I have seen a great im­prove­ment, though I’m still far from per­fect. I have a list of songs that I add to all the time, and I just pick one at ran­dom and put my hand some­where on the neck and try to play it. Some­times I find that ac­tu­ally I can’t hear the melody clearly in my imag­i­na­tion so the prob­lem is not with the hand/ imag­i­na­tion con­nec­tion but get­ting it right in my imag­i­na­tion to start off with. I’m also work­ing on play­ing so­los I know well in my imag­i­na­tion on the ‘wrong’ parts of the fret­board, for any of you that find ba­sic melodies too easy.

There are quite a few things you can do to help this de­velop quickly. Tran­scrib­ing is my favourite: you hear a note on the record­ing, find it on the neck, hear the next one, find it etc. So you’re play­ing what you hear in slow mo­tion – but at the same time you are in­stalling the mu­sic cor­rectly into your imag­i­na­tion, which is im­por­tant. Af­ter a while you’ll find you can tran­scribe whole phrases be­cause you recog­nise them and know where to make those sounds on the guitar neck. Do­ing ‘in­ter­val ear train­ing’ is also some­thing I highly rec­om­mend. You’ll find free cour­ses on both on my site if you’re in­ter­ested.

So please have a try at play­ing what you hear in your imag­i­na­tion. It’s a won­der­ful feel­ing when you can do it - and well worth the effort! Good luck! Check out www.justin­gui­ gt­mag for some ex­am­ple rou­tines and links to ex­er­cises you might like to try out for each sec­tion!

imag­ine your favourite solo in your mind. can you hear the notes, the rhythm, the tone?

Justin says that imag­in­ing the mu­sic in your head is a great way to learn

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