FOOD FOR thought

Ev­ery month, Justin San­der­coe of justin­gui­ lends GT his in­sight as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful gui­tar teach­ers. This month: mind­ful lis­ten­ing.

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - Get more info and links to re­lated lessons on all Justin’s GT ar­ti­cles at www.justin­gui­­mag

Isus­pect that some of you will have heard of this ‘mind­ful­ness’ thing, which is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity at the mo­ment. It’s a kind of med­i­ta­tion which comes from Bud­dhist prac­tices and the most com­mon way to learn it is by spend­ing time fo­cus­ing on your breath­ing and try­ing to main­tain that fo­cus, with the aim to be­come ‘al­ways present’ for ev­ery mo­ment.

I got into mind­ful­ness around the start of 2016, mainly as way of clear­ing my mind and re­lax­ing (I get bad ‘mon­key mind’ where it just won’t turn off!). I’ve found it very help­ful in my day-to-day life. I sleep bet­ter and feel gen­er­ally more re­laxed, which is a big pos­i­tive. Then I dis­cov­ered ‘mind­ful run­ning’ where, in­stead of fo­cus­ing on the breath, you move your at­ten­tion to the fall of your feet and let that be­come the com­plete fo­cus of your at­ten­tion. Great, I could get my morn­ing run and my med­i­ta­tion done in one go. But, ‘What’s that got to do with gui­tar prac­tice?’ I hear you ask.

This year I’ve been try­ing to make time each day to lis­ten to mu­sic. Like, re­ally lis­ten­ing closely, not just hav­ing mu­sic on in the back­ground or be lis­ten­ing ‘for work’. I think it’s some­thing many of us for­get about and it’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant on many dif­fer­ent lev­els, and some­thing I no­tice many of the great play­ers I ad­mire talk about of­ten. With mu­sic be­ing so avail­able these days, I think tak­ing time to re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the good stuff is a big deal and some­thing we should all try to do more of.

So I thought I’d try and mix in this ‘mind­ful’ prac­tice with my lis­ten­ing. I’m lov­ing the re­sults, so I have to share! I feel I’ve re­gained that deep kind of lis­ten­ing I used to do back when I’d or­der a new al­bum from the record store, wait months for it to ar­rive and then spend weeks lis­ten­ing to that one record and re­ally ab­sorb­ing it and ap­pre­ci­at­ing its value to my life.

Some ex­pe­ri­ence in mind­ful­ness will prob­a­bly be a big help to get your­self started – I used an app called Headspace for a few months and found that to be re­ally help­ful, but there are many web­sites de­voted to the prac­tice, which you can seek out on your own.

When it comes to trans­fer­ring the ideas to mu­sic, I start in the same way as in nor­mal med­i­ta­tion, get­ting com­fort­able and try­ing to get my­self ‘still’. I pre­pare a playlist in ad­vance (usu­ally 30 min­utes) or just pick an al­bum I’d like to ab­sorb. Then while lis­ten­ing I start by let­ting my fo­cus wan­der over the mu­sic and see where it lands, and then try to get re­ally into that as­pect and drill deeper. It might start off be­ing the gui­tar tone and then specif­i­cally how it sits in the track. Then maybe into the sound of the pick hit­ting the strings. It might be the drum groove and then the hi-hat and then the lock­ing-in of the hi-hat and acous­tic gui­tar, or the pat­tern it makes. It’s not re­ally im­por­tant where your fo­cus ends up but I think it can be help­ful to try to guide your­self deeper into wher­ever your fo­cus drifts.

It’s re­ally opened up some al­bums that I was al­ready very fa­mil­iar with and I’ve dis­cov­ered new depths to ex­plore. I now lis­ten to some­thing with a spe­cific aim; for ex­am­ple, I wanted to ex­plore An­gus Young’s vi­brato, so while AC/DC is prob­a­bly not the kind of mu­sic one would as­so­ciate with med­i­ta­tion, I found my­self in a mind­ful state with all my at­ten­tion cen­tred on this one thing. Some­thing else I got into was ex­plor­ing the ‘pocket’ of funk grooves and try­ing to fo­cus in on the re­la­tion­ships be­tween the in­stru­ments and how tight (or loose) they were rhyth­mi­cally. Mu­sic pro­duc­tion, fo­cus­ing on re­verbs and tex­tures, and ex­plor­ing gui­tar lay­ers is all fas­ci­nat­ing. You can choose to get into the zone with a goal to ex­plore some­thing, or just let your­self get ab­sorbed into the mu­sic. It’s all good – there are no rules, just fun things to ex­plore.

If you fol­low these columns you will know that I rec­om­mend us­ing a timer for prac­tice and learn­ing to keep your fo­cus while prac­tis­ing is pretty much the ‘mind­ful’ ap­proach any­way. I hope that you find this idea of some ben­e­fit and that at the very least it in­spires you to get into deep lis­ten­ing. Happy days!

i thought i’d mix this ‘mind­ful’ prac­tice in with my lis­ten­ing. i’m lov­ing the re­sults

Justin says be mind­ful in your prac­tice ses­sions

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