Rutbuster: If you Can't Hear It, Don't Play It

If you can't hear it, don't play it.

Another way of saying this could be "If you can't sing it, don't play it."

This advice can go a long way to making you a better guitarist. The next time you practice, try singing every note before you play it. It's all too easy (and common) to let your fingers lead the way and quickly match the pitch with you voice.

You can apply this technique to anything you're working on. For instance...

1. Scale Exercises/Technical Studies - Want to really know your scales and arpeggios? Learn to hear/sing them. Until you can do that you don't really know them.

2. Chord Studies - This is trickier, but still possible. You could choose a chord tone to sing throughout a progression. If you wanted to work on picking out the 3rd, for instance, in a 1 6- 2- 5 progression in C you would sing the notes E C F and B. There's lots of room for creativity hear, so go for it.

3. Transcriptions - Before you jump into a transcription project, spend plenty of time listening to the solo you'll be learning. Let your ears work for you. Get the sounds in your ears to the point where you can sing each phrase. You'll be amazed how quickly you'll blaze through transcriptions once you get proficient at this technique.

4. Improvisation - Improvisation is all about communicating via spontaneous musical composition in real time. All too often with guitar players it's simply running up and down memorized shapes, licks and patterns. Slow your practice down to the point where you can sing a phrase then repeat that phrase on your guitar. The music you sing is the music you hear.

Give this technique a try. Don't be frustrated if your playing slows down significantly. That's normal. Quite often, that's good. Your ears will eventually catch up to your fingers. When that happens, you'll be a guitarist with something to say.

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