Have you ever had times where you’ve tried to master a guitar technique, but get stuck no matter how hard you try?
Or maybe you’ve seen someone play something and they make it look oh-so-easy, yet when you try it, you “hit the wall?”
I’ve been there too, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be shown how to navigate this inner mental game by master teachers.
In this post I’ll show you what I do to achieve relief, and get past these “trouble spots.”
The Vicious Circle
When we are musically stuck, it’s often because of a “vicious circle” of thought.
This “vicious circle” looks like this.
- We have a problem
- We become insecure
- We try to figure it out
- We want to know what to do
- We want the answer
- We dissaprove of ourselves
- We beat ourselves up about it
- We still hold onto the problem
- Back to Step 1 – We have a problem…
(Image courtesy of The Abundance Book, by Lester Levenson and Larry Crane)
Negative energy, tension, despair and a loss of self esteem can really build up inside us if we keep spinning around this impossible circle.
Yep, I’ve been there.
There is a famous Einstein quote that reads “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
So, if we’re are stuck, and contracted around the problem, what can we do?
How can we get “outside” our typical thought patterns and find fresh ideas, a new angle and a possible solution?
The Bee and the Window
How many times have you seen a bee fly up against a window, trying to get outside?
If only the bee knew…the front door of the house is actually open and he could fly out anytime.
The bee can’t access the “solution” because he is
- too close up on the problem
- determined that there is only one solution
- getting exhausted trying
- becoming agitated in the process
- can’t imagine any other solution
That’s what the vicious circle feels like.
The Problem of “Vertical Thinking”
Vertical thinking is when we see a single moment abstractly, separate from the context of the flow of time.
Imagine seeing someone jump rope and taking a snapshot photo while they are mid-air. That would be an isolated moment in a horizontal flow of time.
If you tried to “pose” for this photo, it would be physically impossible – unless of course you were in a “flow of time and motion,” jumping up and down.
The same holds true for music.
We often islate moments and forget about a horizontal flow such as groove, melodic flow, voice leading, continuity of tone, or ebb and flow of dynamics.
To solve issues like “botched notes”, “building speed” or “tricky techniques”, we ought to look at the flow for possible solution to our challenges.
Aha! “Horizontal Thinking”
Horizontal thinking in music is when we are in a “flow” of time rather than looking at a single moment.
Rather than perceiving time and music as a series of particles, we “connect the dots,” and lo!…we start to perceive time and music as a wave.
Techniques to Get You in Flow
To ease up a trouble spot, technique or any other difficulty you may be having, try any of these.
These techniques will get you into a different zone, and hopefully help you do a “paradigm shift.”
- GROOVE: On a hand drum, play a drum groove, stay in a new zone for 10-15 minutes and then go back and play your instrument.
- MELODIC FLOW: Set aside the trouble spot completely and play a tune or piece you can flow with easily with a SINGABLE melody. Stay in a that flow for 10-15 minutes and then go back and play the trouble spot.
- TOUCH: Can you lighten your touch, make your tone like a “silky sheen” and play through it?
- CHANGE: If you change a fingering or slow down will that allow you to flow through it?
- BLUES: If you play any blues, rock, or funk at all, do a time-out and “activate” your blues feel, and sink in for 10-15 minutes..
- BREAKS: Make sure you are practicing max 20 minutes on, and taking 15 minute breaks. Sometimes, with a rest the mind and body sort things out all by themselves.
What does “Horizontal Flow” Feel like?
Once you are in a “horizontal flow”, some of the characteristics are
- You may find yourself smiling
- You feel relief
- It’s fun
- It feels easy
- It plays itself
- Problems dissolve
Disclaimer: You can’t imitate someone when you are flowing, so if you are trying to play like someone else, it will simply vanish when you are in “flow.”
Set the Bee Free
“The Horizontal Flow” may be just the “paradigm shift” that you have not yet considered.
That’s the open front door… feel free to fly out anytime.
Let’s get horizontal baby!
Further Reading & Study
If you’d like to read more about this and know some of the techniques I use away from music to get unstuck, and put my head in back a productive and happy zone, check out:
These are NOT affiliate links, I earn nothing if you buy through these links. It’s just dang good information which I go back to again and again.
You may also like this WIKI article about “AHA” moments.