Say My Name…

Well, not my name… the name of the note you’re playing right now.

Are you playing a note right now?
No? Oh, you’re reading a blog on your electronic device. Okay.

Well, if you were playing a note, would you know its name?

And let’s clarify the difference between knowing its name immediately… and being able to figure out its name if given the amount of time you need to do so. Most guitarists are able to do the latter. Not so much with the former.

Possessing this kind of fretboard fluency is huge… it transforms the entire experience of interacting with your instrument & the experience of performing music.

The process to develop this skill is pretty straight forward. The drill that I teach in 99 Decisions is very effective in getting the information programmed into the eyes & brain. One just needs to follow the directions & consistently work on it one string at a time. This will get you to the level of comfortably knowing the notes names on each string & fret. Eventually, everyone gets it. But only the ones who do the drill regularly. 

The next important step is to make sure you integrate the skill with everything you do when playing. So many students I’ve worked with do fine during the lessons because we’re both working together on something and I am addressing the material in a way that encourages them to think of the note names.

But do they continue to be cognizant of the notes when they practice by themselves?

What I am talking about here is developing a habit to think about the note name on a regular basis. All you have to do is remember to remember to think of the names of the notes no matter what you are doing.
Now, obviously, if the music or exercise you are playing in the moment is fast & furious, you wouldn’t try to think of each note as you play it. 

Try this…

• Every now & then while practicing, just stop what you are doing and ask, “What is this note’s name?”.

• Say the name out loud and then proceed.

• Do this this every 3 minutes or so.

• After a few practice sessions, it will start to become habit.

Simple, right?

To me, this topic is part of the perpetual reconciliation of conscious & unconscious musical mind. By this I mean that when one is on the path of an artist, they get to experience creating art by using their cognitive skills and their artistic instinct. Everyone, and I mean everyone, gets to figure out their own experience with this.

Because at what point does a skill go from being cognitive to instinctual? And can you make an instinctual skill cognitive?

As an educator, dealing with cognition is way more straight forward than showing people how to “just close your eyes & create beautiful music.”

For the record, I believe you can practice & develop the creative mind just like you can develop the cognitive & technical skills to play music. The process is different, but it would constitute a limiting belief to think that you must be “born with musical talent”, as many people think. 

Hey, it was nice chatting with you in this blog post.

I’m sorry… your name again?

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