Effective Practicing: It’s all in how you look at it…

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Visualization: You’re Doing it Wrong!

This was my first idea for the title of this blog post.
I know… cheesy. I’m playing off of those “life hack” articles you see on the internets where they show you the best way to use some device or achieve some result. The idea is that most of the planet’s population has been doing it incorrectly all this time & boy, aren’t we (you) stupid! But I’ve got to say, some of those articles have some pretty cool stuff in them, like the one about how to eat Chinese food out of those to-go containers.

So let’s talk about visualization. Are you doing that right?

Simply put, visualization is the act of creating a detailed image of the goal in your mind so that all your efforts towards achieving that goal are more focused & effective.

I think a lot of people get the value of using visualization techniques. It’s been around awhile (since the dawn of man). And it’s not the new-age hippy trippy metaphysical thing it was considered to be a few decades ago. It has been completely validated by science. (what do you think of that, grasshopper?)

However, in working with many of my private clients in the utilizing of visualization techniques as applied to their guitar practicing, I’ve seen many of them work on a piece of music or on an exercise, and end up completely spun and frustrated and, to some degree, emotional, about not hitting the target.

That’s because there is an important part of the visualization process that many people miss. I have found there to be a key step that is crucial to achieving your desired results.


Here is a simple step-by-step process for visualization when practicing the guitar. I suggest you start with practicing this visualization technique using short musical examples, or a scale pattern, or a chord transition between two chords, or the like…

• Close your eyes

• In your mind, create a detailed vision of what it is that you are striving to play

• Open your eyes

• Watch yourself execute the action

• Accept the outcome no matter what

• Repeat this process many many times


It is that part about “accepting the outcome no matter what” that you want to pay attention to.

What if you’ve clarified what the goal looks like in your mind, then you do it, and something totally different from what you visualized occurs?… your fingers don’t move quickly & accurately, or you miss the chord transition, or you forget the scale fingering?

You know, what if it sucks?

So here’s where this gets personal… literally.

You will most likely respond with a feeling based on an emotion connected to sucking…. disappointment, frustration, anger, depression, etc. Nobody likes to suck. But remember- the reality is that when you are practicing effectively, then you are playing things you cannot perform & execute perfectly yet, so it is realistic to expect a fair amount of sucking.

Which brings us to the most important part: You have to choose to be okay with that.
(key word = choose)

That’s right. You need to figure out how to be okay with sucking.

This seems counterintuitive because the visualization process entails you inwardly expressing a specific intent concerning the specific outcome of a specific action… yet something other than you intended occurs.

And we’re not talking about lowering your standards here. We’re talking about momentarily detaching your feelings from the results, observing what went wrong, thinking about how to correct it, then proceeding with the next attempt.

Because if you feel disappointed with the outcome, and you get all emotional about it, this will exacerbate the situation… meaning, you just keep getting more & more frustrated and this will produce the opposite results you are looking for. You will start focusing on the mistakes. And you want to focus on success.

So take a breath, let it go. Then go back to the beginning and close your eyes, then  visual success, then execute, then observe & accept… over & over again.

Eventually, it will all start to come together for you… sometimes quickly, sometimes slooooooowly.

Trust the process.


It is all very simple, yet understandably challenging, to change your approach. Simply choose a different response. No matter what happens, be okay with it. Then, you repeat the visualization process and go again.

And again.

And again.

And again.
Each time creating more detail with the image in your mind, of what it looks like for your fingers to play the music accurately. Your response is always balanced & neutral.

You are the Observer, observing what is without judgement… better way to say it… you are totally accepting of what is.

Is this Zen?
Yup, pretty much.

So the key thing is this…
You want to figure out how to create a gap between stimulus & response.
Meaning, the outcome (in this case, sucking) is the stimulus, and your negative judgment of it is the response. So many of us have ingrained a habit of reacting to life’s situations in a way that is not creative, but reactive… a “knee jerk” response. How beautifully simple is it that you can choose your response to any situation. (Did I mention simple doesn’t always means easy?) It’s take diligent &  consistent effort to change these habits. It is deep work for any human, that’s for sure.

Let it go & do it again.
Every repetition reinforces the process & enables you to stay detached, yet determined.

Now, if you do indeed get the results you desire… you nail it… then observe, acknowledge, and then go again.

Repetition = Reinforcement

And this isn’t just about the fingers. You are reinforcing all habits- physical, mental, & emotional. Remember, you are practicing playing the guitar AND developing mental skills, AND emotional skills.


“Need nothing. Desire everything. Choose what shows up.”

- Neale Donald Walsch

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