Sometimes your focus as a guitarist should shift from what you are playing to what you aren't playing. It's a Zen-like paradox.
Let me give you 3 quick examples. Then I'll leave it up to you to find your own applications of this concept.
1. Tension in unused fingers. If you're playing with one finger, you're also NOT playing with the other three fingers. Most guitarists struggle with the habit of holding onto muscle tension after they've played a note.
This problem is easy to diagnose. Does your fretting hand seem to have very little stamina and freeze up after just a few minutes of playing? Learn to release the tension after every note you play. You'll be amazed at the difference this will make.
2. Muting unused strings. If you're playing on one string, you're also NOT playing on the other 5 strings. This is where the idea of string muting comes in. Pay close attention to all 6 strings whenever you play. Do you hear any unwanted noise coming from the string(s) you're not playing?
I should note that this issue almost takes care of itself if you've spent a decent amount of time correcting problem 1. If you're relaxing your unused fretting hand fingers, they'll naturally come to rest on the fretboard. This effectively mutes unused strings. Nice!
3. Playing rests. This is pretty closely related to muting unused strings, but now we're talking about NOT playing all the strings at once.
When it comes to playing rests in music, it's helpful to think of it on active terms. In other words, you don't passively wait for the rest to pass, you actively PLAY THE REST.
Take some time this week to focus on what you are NOT playing on guitar. You'll develop a cleaner, more intentional style as a result.
What are some other examples of Guitar Zen concepts? Leave a comment below to add your thoughts.
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