5 October 2009

Guitar Practice Pitfalls: Staring at the Neck

Do you stare at your guitar neck when you practice? It's easy to fall into this bad habit as you learn to play guitar. Why is it a problem? Well, if you spend all your time staring at the neck as you play you'll have a hard time communicating with an audience or with other band members. And if you can't communicate then you'll limit your performance skills and ultimately end up playing less well.

But how do you break this habit? How can you learn to play guitar without staring at the neck to see where you put your fingers all the time? Simple, you practice.

If you want to play guitar without staring at the neck then you have to practice that way. Here are three exercises that will help you break the habit of staring at the guitar neck while you practice.

Switch on the TV

Practice some chord progressions or scales while watching a favourite program on the TV. Not only does it help stop you staring at the neck it can also earn you extra practice time.

If the guitar's noise bothers you then you can simply practice moving your fretting hand around without picking. You won't hear problems this way though, so remember to check your fingers are going in the right place from time to time.

Practice in the Dark

Have you ever tried to practice in the dark? It will surely be a revealing experience if you're a neck watcher. In the dark you can't rely on your eyes to guide you to the right places on the neck. Your only option is to develop your feel for finger, hand and arm position.

Read Music

If you sight read music as you play you'll have a hard time looking at the neck much. If you don't sight read it will also help you learn this useful skill. Of course, you can substitute other notations if you prefer - follow a chord chart or the song lyrics as you sing them.

If you are a neck watcher then these three practice techniques will help you to break your bad habit.

1. Switch on the TV, gain practice time as you watch your favourite shows.
2. Practice in the dark, gain guitar skill and save on lighting at the same time.
3. Read music and occupy your eyes as you develop useful musical skills.

The secret to all the techniques is to find a practice environment that gives you something else to watch or think about. This forces you to develop your sense of position and teach your fingers, hand and arm to feel when they are in the right place. Set up your practice so that you spend at least a portion of your time to practice without looking at the guitar neck.


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MJK (Mike) said...

I stare at the guitar neck but I am getting better at not doing this. I am getting to the point where on certain scales, I can run a scale in ascending and descending without looking at the neck. However, I wish I could say the same thing for chords. They are still my enemy at the moment.

Lucas said...

Mine too. Open chords are easy, but bar chords that run across the neck...they kill me.

Gary Fletcher said...

Hi Mike, Lucas, thanks for your comments. Why be enemies with your guitar when you can make friends? :-)

My recommendation is some chord grabbing, after a couple of initial tries do it without looking at the neck. This is an easy exercise to do while watching TV - makes no noise.

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