Train Carriage

Always Be Practicing

I’m madly busy this week. I’m still spending every spare minute practicing for the musical I have coming up. I also have teaching, a rehearsal, a gig and a house full of guests for a family wedding.

What I’ve discovered is that I have to make use of every spare minute. Most importantly, just because I don’t have an instrument in my hand doesn’t mean I can’t practice.

Even in ‘dead time’ like travelling I can visualise chord shapes, chord changes, scales and arpeggio patterns. If I’m not driving I can even move my fingers to practice the actual movements. Playing an instrument is about getting your body to move very precisely according to the instructions your mind sends it. You can still practice sending those instructions even without the instrument there.

Is it as good as practicing with an actual instrument? No. But it’s better than spending an hour aimlessly checking Facebook or reading a magazine.

I’m also taking the score for the musical everywhere I go. I can read it on the train and imagine the movements I will need to make, the positions on the fretboard I will use, the way it will sound and feel. I can put on my iPod and follow the music on that – although personally I’d rather visualise myself playing it instead of following someone else doing it. All of this should help me follow the music when doing it for real.

When doing this it’s important to imagine how the actions will sound and feel as well as how they look. It annoys me that there are no words in English equivalent that are equivalent to ‘visualise’ but for sound and touch. ‘Audialise’ and ‘sensualise’ aren’t particularly satisfactory. Please comment with any ideas!

You can also use dead time to work on your musical knowledge. Recite the notes in scales and chords, the chords in particular keys. Invent rhythms and imagine how you’d write them. Listen to music and try to identify different intervals. There are no shortage of things if you put your mind to it.

I’m guilty of reciting scales and imagining their positions on the guitar while I’m lying in bed waiting to drift off to sleep. I can tell you I’ve never suffered from insomnia!

I’m sure this can be applied to any hobby, activity or discipline. It takes a bit of thought and imagination to come up with some ideas to start with, but once you’ve got some you’ll never be bored on a long journey again.

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