Sunday, September 6, 2009


Ordinary people believe only in the possible. Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable, but rather what is impossible. And by visualizing the impossible, they begin to see it as possible. - Cherie Carter-Scott

Above all else, we must see ourselves playing the way we want to play and keep that image in our mind - no matter what the present reality of our playing is. All physical practice must be guided by this image. If we don't imagine ourselves playing well, if we are constantly thinking about how we don't play well, if we continually speak to others about how we don't play well, no amount of physical work can overcome that self image.

The common problem among most people (myself included) is that we become hypnotized by the outer world (see my last post). We see ourselves with deficiencies in tone, accuracy, memorization, confidence, etc. and we keep thinking and focusing on our problems. This continues to manifest them.

Let's understand a little bit about how the mind works. When we have an image of ourselves (positive or negative) continually repeated in the conscious mind, the subconscious tries to find ways to create that image. An interesting fact about the subconscious is - it cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination. If we continually think that we can't play well because of our present circumstances, the subconscious will find ways to continue to create that reality. On the other hand, if we create a positive image of our playing in our imagination and repeatedly see ourselves in that way, the subconscious mind begins to look for ways to create that reality.

So, we start by creating the positive image of our playing in our imagination regardless of the present situation. 5-10 minutes a day is enough. You want to see and feel yourself playing the way you wish as if it is happening NOW. It's important to think and feel like you are playing this way NOW because the subconscious doesn't understand the future. The subconscious only works with NOW feelings and images. Remember to always visualize as if you have what you want NOW. Don't worry if the mind wanders or if the image is hazy - just keep bringing it back to the image for 5-10 minutes. Once in a while, the image will become clear and you will lose yourself in it - that's wonderful, enjoy it! Even if the visualizing feels cold and mechanical - that's ok too. The important point is to do it every day so it becomes a habit.

You want to do this daily for 5-10 minutes a day. Momentum in visualizing is key. It's like we are planting a seed. We must cultivate and nourish the seed everyday. At first, when we repeat this new image of ourselves playing well, nothing seems to be happening. Be patient - there has to be momentum in the new idea for it to grow. A seed grows underground and out of sight for weeks. Keep visualizing the positive image every day even if you don't see results.

After a few weeks of visualizing the positive playing, you'll start getting little insights. The playing will be exactly the same, but you begin to have new ideas about how to overcome the problem areas. You might notice yourself finding articles and videos which help you rethink your playing. You may find yourself trying new approaches, new ways of listening, new ways of feeling as you practice. This is all part of the process.

After more time visualizing daily, you'll see tangible progress. You'll notice that the accumulation of the insights begin to take root physically. You might not be 100% there, but you'll see evidence of progress. Some days will be better than others - that's normal. Keep visualizing yourself playing as you wish and progress will be made towards that image.

Now, let me state the obvious here. You do have to physically practice! I'm not saying that you just visualize every day and BAM! - suddenly you play like your favorite guitarist. What I am saying is - by visualizing the way you want to play daily, the subconscious mind has no choice but to look for ways through your physical practice to create that image. This means that while you practice, you are going to get new insights about your playing - so be aware of that small voice or intuition. If it tells you to try another approach - by all means try it. Insights may come while you are practicing, or they might come while you walk in the park, or while you are talking to a friend, or in your dreams. Be grateful when they come.

Also, understand that everyone progresses differently. Some people will get tremendous insights in a few weeks while others might take longer. Don't keep asking "when is it going to happen". Be patient, enjoy the visualization of yourself playing well every day, practice well and keep your mind open to the new ideas. Stay relaxed - don't try to force this. Remember, if you continually visualize the positive image daily, you are guiding yourself to that image. This isn't wishful thinking - this is mental science. Take the time and dedicate yourself to this everyday. Over time, you'll see wonderful results from this simple, yet powerful technique.


Darryl said...

So many to show us how to play an instrument. I think this is the first time that it's been put into words the reason why I play an instrument and why I've struggled. This post and the next explain that it's my "innervoice" that wants to tell a story of who I am through music and my instrument - the guitar. My outer sense of reality restricts the telling of who I really am. Thanks, Kevin.

Brian Kwon said...

Great insight on 'visualizing" and how it affects every guitarist/musician in the process of gradually molding themselves into an accomplished performer. As a guitarist, this post really got to my heart and realize how important it is to keep cultivating ourselves to grow in music and most importantly, in our inner selves. Thanks for the great post, Kevin.

HiddenHeart said...

An enlightening article. I think it will help me a lot. Not only in music but also in the other aspects of life.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Looking forward to learn more from you.