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Next Level Playing

You know the expression: “Like The Back of My Hand”?

It implies that you’ve stared at the back of your hand so much, so often,

that it has become the most familiar sight.

You know it intimately, and can trace all its lines and features.


Well, playing a musical instrument is just like that.


To start with, everything is un-familiar.

The keyboard is just cold black-and-white lines.

The fretboard is just a criss-cross of metal wires and bars.

Not only is it all strange and unfamiliar, but it is also scary and panic-inducing, because you are confronted with this grid, where everything looks identical,
and you are then told to make something up.
That could be frightening because we are not encouraged to think for ourselves in our culture.

I understand this, and am very gentle, patient and sympathetic with new students.
I know that if you stare at your instrument long enough, the patterns emerge.


(Here are the Three Shapes, or inversions, of D major)



But new students don’t know this yet.

They say to themselves: “I Can’t Do It”, that dreaded phrase.

So I spend a lot of time kneeling in front of people, jabbing my finger at the fretboard, trying to give them hope that the patterns will suddenly appear, the more they play.


Muscle Memory in the fingers only comes by doing something many times.



I have discovered that if I follow a path on the guitar enough times, it becomes

more real,

more solid,

more defined,

more familiar,

easier to go up and down.

My fingers begin to find their own way, and I no longer have to crane my neck to stare at them all the time.

The fretboard is no longer a dead criss-cross  of identical boxes and lines.

It becomes alive with shapes and angles,  patterns and arrangements.


Soon, I get brave, and learn another scale / pattern / path.

This time with only 5 notes in it.

Suddenly, I find I am starting to sound like my musical heroes!

So THAT’s how they do it!


There are only 8 notes in a standard, basic scale.

They simply repeat themselves over and over again.

In a higher register, or in a lower register.

However, the derivations, combinations, variations this gives you

is nearly endless.


(For mathematicians,
Say there were just 8 notes, played on just 6 strings of a guitar,
8 to the power of 6   gives you 86 = 262,144).


That’s a heck of a lot of tunes!

This is how composers have been creating original music for generations, out of the same few notes.


This gives me and my students hope!

We can create solos, riffs, runs, tunes that are completely original and unique.

All because

we follow some basic rules,

go down established paths,

and repeat set patterns.

Now  THAT’s   Next  Level  Playing!



Want to know more?

Looking for music lessons in Colwyn Bay? Please check out our Music Teacher page for information, or contact us.