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Blues Guitar Lessons: Visualization

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In the last lesson, I talked
about this concept of vocalizing.
Which is you sing what you play.
You play what you sing.
And you start to hear the relationship
between the notes, and
the scale patterns and
the emotional quality.
And you feel that emotional quality
when you sing more directly.
It's internal.
Than you do when you play,
where you can kinda watch it.
So, we wanna always bring the notes
inside and internalize them.
Now, another way to accomplish this,
and this is a technique that I learned
when I went to GIT,
now known as Musician's Institute.
The school was founded by a guitar
player named Howard Roberts and
Howard was not only a fantastic guitar
player, but he studied education and
sort of the mental aspect of learning,
in depth.
And one of the areas of learning that
he emphasized was visualization.
Now visualization is a technique
that's used not just in music,
they use it in sports, and in business.
And it's a very simple idea,
which is you picture some activity,
and you picture each detail of
the activity, in your mind.
And you kinda walk yourself through it,
you walk yourself to the desired outcome.
If you're a football player, you picture
yourself running down the field and
catching the ball and
running to the finish line or whatever.
On the guitar, it's about developing
a mental picture of the guitar neck.
And so,
we're looking at the thing all day long.
I put my hand at the fifth fret there.
I know I'm in the key of A.
And I know how to play a,
how to play a pentatonic scale and
all that stuff.
My fingers know where to go.
I'm starting to hear the notes but
when I'm away from the guitar,
that picture can start to fade.
And then when I hear music,
I hear something, a recording somewhere,
it can be hard for me to figure out
what's going on on the recording.
Or if I start to hear it and I can kinda
sing what's going on and convert it into
numbers as we talked about it in the last
lesson, then it can be tricky to get
back to the guitar and figure out
where am I gonna put that thing.
So what it results in is
a lot of trial and error.
I'm listening to a record and
I'm trying to figure out whats going on.
And I'm putting my finger here,
that's not it, no that's not it,
no that's not it, and
I'm wasting a lot of time and
I'm sort of training myself to play
mistakes which we want to avoid.
So, in order to make the learning
process much more efficient and
also allow you to practice anywhere,
anytime away from the guitar,
if you have a mental picture
of the guitar in your head,
you can hear a piece of music and
you can place it on the guitar neck.
You can watch your fingers
play that melody and
figure out what you're gonna need to do
to recreate that melody in your mind and
when you pick up the guitar,
you're gonna nail it the first time.
That's if you've done it accurately.
Your picture is accurate.
Now let's do a little experiment here.
I'm gonna play you a recording.
It's not a guitar player.
It's a singer.
This is the down home blues right here.
This is actually a recording done
in a prison camp in the 1930s and
this is probably as close
as we're ever gonna get to
imagining what the sound of blues
was before there were blues records.
This is what blues sounded
like out in the fields.
It was a guy singing all by himself.
And what I'm gonna do here
is listen to the phrase.
I'm gonna imitate.
Not every detail of his voice, but
sort of the outline of his melody,
figure out where one is,
convert that phrase to numbers, and
then I'm gonna mentally
put it on the neck.
Now, I don't have perfect pitch.
I don't know what key he's singing in.
So I'm just gonna imagine
it anywhere on the neck and
then when i pick up the guitar and
play it I'll say, did I get it right?
Or, no.
He's in a different key.
The good thing about the guitar is if you
know how to play the scale in the key
of A, you move it up there because
it's exactly the same pattern.
So, relative pitch is
very easy on the guitar.
You can transpose without any trouble.
Let's listen to this for a second.
That's the classic
blues right there, boy.
So, first question is where's one?
Where's one?
Which of those notes is at
the center of that melody?
It's the home note it's the note to
which the melody finally resolves.
[COUGH] Now, without getting in to
a discussion of interval relationships and
all that.
I think you can intuitively hear.
That's the note where it seems to land.
That's not the first note that he sings,
but it's the note where
the melody seems to rest, right?
That's the emotional quality of one,
it's [SOUND], I'm home.
So if you went
roughly, right?
Well, in order to find that note,
I have to compare it mentally to the sound
of a scale that I'm familiar with.
I'm familiar with the minor pentatonic.
If I put numbers on that, one,
three, four, five, seven, one.
Five, four, three, one.
[SOUND] So that opening phrase that he
sings [SOUND] five, four, three, one.
Now, if I was to play that in
my scale pattern where's one?
Well one is on the fourth
string with my third finger.
[SOUND] And the fifth that's on
the second string with my first finger.
And then when you go down the scale,
[SOUND] I'm gonna use my third
finger on the third string,
[SOUND] first finger on the third
string then back to the fourth string.
So it's, second string first finger,
third string,
third finger, third string, first finger,
[SOUND] doing down that box pattern,
and land finally on my third finger on
the fourth string.
Now, I know what key we're in, I'm gonna
there's one.
That's not it.
That's it.
Key of A.
Singing in the key of A out of the blue,
Our favorite key.
All right.
Now, I know how to play in the key of A,
I already visualized that melody, so I can
play that guy's melody right off the top.
So, I mentally played that lick,
I knew what fingers I was gonna use,
I knew how the fingers would feel
when I put them on the strings.
I can coordinate the pick in my mind,
and so when I come down to play in that
melody, I can pretty much
nail it without any practice.
There's no trial and
error involved once I pick up the guitar.
I'm done.
I already know it,
now it's just executing it.
Let's continue a bit.
Now, he's doing a lot
of embellishment there,
which we can do on the guitar.
We're gonna learn how to do that,
sliding and bending and so forth.
But stripping it down to his essentials,
so he goes
I was feeling bad.
All right, we know where one is.
We know where that note is.
That's the fifth cuz that was
the first note of the whole thing.
Well, well,
What's that?
That's the
I can feel my finger rolling over from
the root to the fourth.
Fourth string to the third string.
I can roll that finger over and
play that and I'll
and back down that same scale pattern that
we started out with.
[SOUND] Now we know what key we're in so
I can nail it.
I know exactly where I am on the neck.
Seventh fret, third string,
fifth fret, seventh fret,
fourth string back up to the fifth.
That's my first finger on the second
string and then back down to scale.
Now, if I could add all those little
embellishments that he's doing with his
voice like the slides, and you know
Take the voice and words away from it,
and that's a pretty decent blue's lick
right there.
That's not listening to a guitar player,
that's listening to a singer.
I could do that with a saxophone,
you know, I could do it with a piano.
If I'm following the melody.
But of course, we do it most of
the time with guitar players.
And because guitar players
are playing the same instrument,
they're using roughly the same
techniques that we use all the time,
this idea of visualizing and connecting
what you're hearing to what you're seeing
in your mind before you play it,
is one that creates a tremendous shortcut.
You don't have to wait, to come home,
get your guitar out, dust it off.
[LAUGH] You know, plug it in,
put the record on or hit the track and
then listen 50 times and
note by note, making mistakes.
It's all there, it's all figured out.
So it starts by listening, singing.
You convert that singing phrase that you
now have locked in your brain to numbers.
You know where those
numbers are in the scale
because you've got a pattern that
includes all those notes in it.
You see your fingers playing
that pattern on the neck.
And then you pick up the guitar.
And if you did your job properly, and
if you've done it enough where you've
developed confidence,
you're gonna nail in the first time.
Doesn't matter what key it's in,
it's relative pitch, right?
So you'll have it in your mind, and maybe
you're singing it in the wrong key, but
you pick up the guitar, and it's, yeah,
it's there instead of over there, but
it's the same shape, right?
A tremendously valuable technique that
will accelerate your ability to learn,
no matter what style of music you play,
but certainly in the context of blues,
it just Makes everything
happen quite a bit quicker.
All right, the next thing we're gonna
look at is getting back to guitar playing
in the more specific sense.
And we're gonna start to analyze
the blues melody sound and
break it down to its smallest details.