Have you ever practised a technique for countless hours, days, months, even years, but you just can’t seem to get it right?
How about this scenario:
After a full day of intense practice you finally get close to playing your technique right, only to pick up the guitar the next day and find that you are back to square one. Your body decides that today, you are not going to play guitar.
These happen to every single guitarist, myself included. It can be incredibly discouraging and I won’t lie, it has made me want to give up entirely so many times.
I want to share with you a little hack that I’ve adopted in practice routines that have made a world of difference, and I hope that it will save you many days, months, even years of practice.
The hack is simply this: use metaphors in your practice. What do I mean by metaphors? Let’s first define them!
Metaphors are a figure of speech that describes an action that isn’t literally true.
Let’s say we want to improve our strumming technique on a slow and mellow ballad. Rather than tell yourself to ‘strum gently, with the notes being more connected to one another, and make sure each individual note can be heard’, tell yourself to ‘strum as though you are caressing a cat on your lap’!
Well if you don’t like cats, try something else like ‘strum while imagining there is a butterfly resting on your finger’, or ‘strum like you are running your hands across tall grass on a clear green pasture’.
Music is an art, and sometimes we try too hard to science-ify music. We calculate pitch frequencies, interval ratios, beat durations, and so on… Even if we aren’t being nerds about numbers, we often take very practical mindsets with mental cues like ‘play softer’, ‘play with more strength’, ‘play louder’. With these thoughts being so direct, we often lose that artistic quality in our musical processes.
The use of metaphor also makes it incredibly fun to learn music! You can be a child again and let your imagination run free. The best part is, you can imagine things that you like, and nobody else has to know about them.
I hope you have lots of fun and progress in using metaphors in your practice routine. Do you have a metaphor you currently use to guide your playing? Let me know in the comments below so that we can share our tips and help one another out in our guitar learning journey!
By Neil Chan