When you think about observation you might picture Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery.
Mr Holmes was famous for his observation skills that helped him solve crimes that were considered unsolvable.
Anyone can develop the skill of observation, and it can help you whether or not you are trying to be a famous detective.
Developing your own observation skills can help you become a better guitar player and get more out of your practice time, guitar lessons, and classes.
Many guitar players get stuck in a rut simply because they are not paying attention to what they are doing.
Your mind probably wanders a little as you practice your guitar, as you listen to your teacher explain something, or even as you read this sentence.
By improving your observation skills you can get more out of your guitar lessons, your practice time, and you can even learn new things faster.
In this lesson you will learn what observation is, how it can help your guitar playing, and some practical steps you can take towards developing your own powers of observation.
What is Observation?
The definition of observation we will be using is this: “the action of observing something or someone carefully or in order to gain information.”
Basically, observe means to watch or pay attention to something or someone in order to learn. You could simplify this idea to “pay attention.”
To apply this idea to your guitar playing, our goal will be to learn how to focus your attention on your own playing when you are practicing or performing, and on your guitar teacher when in a lesson or a class.
It seems obvious, but some students miss out on a lot of ideas because of poor observation skills.
How Can Observation Help Your Playing?
The skills we are going to be working on are essentially paying attention and noticing what happens in your playing, or in a lesson.
If you’re paying better attention in your guitar lessons, you’ll get more out of your time with your teacher.
If you’re noticing what happens when you practice, you’ll be able to fix issues that come up without your teacher having to remind you later.
Learning to improve your observation skills can make a big difference in your guitar playing between getting more out of your lessons or classes, and accomplishing more on your own time as well.
Steps Towards Better Observation
Clear Your Mind
It’s hard to be able to observe your guitar playing if you’re still thinking about other things in your life.
Simply trying to “clear your mind” is not going to work too well, along with sounding corny. Just try to force yourself not to think and see how that goes.
One of the best ways to get your mind to calm down and pay attention is simply to give it a job to do that will focus it on your guitar playing, instead of that project you haven’t gotten started on yet.
Try this - start by observing your guitar as you pick it up:
Take the time to notice all aspects of your guitar as much as possible. This doesn’t have to take long - in fact it can just take a few seconds.
Slowing yourself down is an essential part of improving your observation skills. In this case, we are thinking about slowing down both physically, and mentally.
Physically, play slower than you want to. Especially with new material or anything tricky. Notice everything you can as you play.
Mentally, try to slow down your thoughts. Our brains can sometimes go into a panicked mode when we practice.
Worrying about how long it takes, what we can actually accomplish, or searching for the next answer as quickly as possible.
Try to slow down your thinking as well as you physical playing.
Do your best to avoid analyzing what is going on as you practice, or in your lesson.
We all tend to talk to ourselves in our heads as we go through our day, and this can get in our way as we go through practice, lessons, and classes.
Do your best to observe without analyzing - whether it is in practice, a lesson, or a class.
There is always time to think about what you are learning later - for now just do your best to take in the information.
Don’t Worry About Labels
The problem with new information is that once we know what something is called, we think we know it.
It’s easy for us to confuse the accumulation of musical facts with the development of musical skills.
I can’t count how many students I’ve met who “knew” things about the major scale - they could tell me the formula, spell the notes in different keys, and tell me what kinds of chords came from it.
But they couldn’t actually play the major scale in more than one or two keys
Spend your energy exploring the material that you think you know. If you pay attention, you will be able to keep learning more about it.
Thinking of a particular scale, key or chord as “hard”, or deciding that a particular musical style is not interesting to you without exploring it.
These judgements can be enemies of your own musical development.
Until you really explore a key, song, chord, scale, or style - you really can’t know whether or not it is hard, or if it is interesting to you.
Keep A Curious Mind
Whenever you sit down to practice, walk into a lesson, or go to a class, try and let yourself think about playing guitar as if you are a beginner.
Stay curious and let yourself absorb what you are hearing, even if you have heard the information or something similar before.
Even hearing the exact same information over again, you are likely to learn something you’ve missed in the past.
Be open to learning a new way of looking at something you have learned before.
A different perspective will help you gain a better understanding about something, even if it is a skill that you use every day.
Things To Think About:
Put simply, observation is paying attention in order to learn something.
By developing some basic observation skills, you can get more out of your practice time, guitar lessons, and any other time you are learning.
In this lesson we looked at some steps you can take to start working on your observation skills and if you put these into practice, you’ll start to notice more in your guitar playing.
You don’t have to try and do everything at once. Just pick one of the steps from this lesson and try it for a little while to see if it helps you.
Give these steps a try, and let me know how it goes - I’m always happy to help out!
Contact me today and let me know how it's going!
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