May 15, 2019 by Klaus Crow
photo by Tiny Froglet
My daughter is now 20 months old and our second child is on the way. I love spending time with my daughter and I very often do, but as parents know children have a tendency to occupy all your time.
When I play guitar, my daughter wants to play guitar also. I bought her a little guitar of her own, but she wants to play on my guitar when I play it. That is just great. :) I don’t mind, but my practice workouts become a little difficult this way. Therefore and for a lot of other reasons I designed the Zen Guitar Practice Workout.
Zen is more and more finding its way into the western world along with minimalism and new lifestyle designs.
A major benefit for all who are seeking a different and more effective way to self improvement and development.
Zen is also very good to apply when it comes to guitar practice.
Guitar practice is in itself a form of meditation. You need to stay focused on what you practice and not let your mind wander.
It is about concentrating on your fingers, your technique, letting go off tension, recapturing yourself, letting it happen, continually shaping and getting back to the essence of your practice.
Zen Guitar Practice is a way to combine the rules of Zen Buddhism and the rules of guitar practice into your workout.
Here are the steps to benefit:
The best way to practice is in solitude. Tell your family when and for how long you are going to practice. Ask them to give you some privacy for the time being. Find yourself a room in the house where you can have some peace and quiet. Create your own sacred hide out where you can play your instrument, where you can practice without distractions (turn off all electronic devices) and work on becoming a better guitar player or songwriter.
Take a few minutes to mediate and let go off all your worries and troubles.
All the things that happened during the day and all things that are still to come you can now put aside. Everything that slips into your mind just let it go. Don’t worry if it comes back. Just let it go again and again. Concentrate on your breathing and feel the peace. This is the time for you to learn and enjoy, to improve and grow. When you take the time to meditate you create a bigger focus.
Make sure you have everything in the room (picks, capo, tuner, etc) so you are ready to roll and don’t have to leave for the time being. Find yourself a good solid but comfortable chair, make yourself some tea or a nice hot cappuccino (what the heck!), lay down your music sheets in front of you, place your guitar on your lap and sit down with your back straight.
Begin with some warmup exercises to loosen up your fingers. This way you avoid any muscle injuries and it improves your playing. Take five minutes and go through some of these exercises.
Slow is the way to go. When you practice licks, solos, chord progressions, anything at all, you first need to practice things slow. We are all eager to play fast and faster, but we also need to play fluently. Your fingers and your brain need to get used to new moves and shapes. Be patient and take your time. Concentrate on clear notes, steady rhythm, and guitar fluency. Make sure you can play things perfectly slow and then build up speed gradually.
Take a moment to breath and release the tension from the muscles in your fingers, hands, arms, shoulders and back. Let them rest for a few minutes. Go through a small relax exercise for great results: Focus on single parts of your body and relax them one by one.
Close your eyes (yes close them), focus and relax your:
– index fingers
– middle fingers
– ring fingers
– baby fingers
– left hand
– right hand
I know, I know… with all this meditating, warming up and pausing in between is there any time left to play? Don’t worry, just take 5 minutes for each exercise and then work on your skills with everything you’ve got. You will be in a better condition and you will achieve more!
Self fulfilling prophecy
You design and live the life you create. Buddha said: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” Therefore banish all negative thoughts like: “I can’t do this”, “This is impossible”, “No way this is going to work.” If those lines enter your mind you will just say to yourself: “I let you go now.” Replace that crap for positive, motivational and inspiring thoughts like: “I will get there”, “I’m becoming a better player with each workout”, “I’m working on something cool here” and “Practice makes perfect”.
Believe in the power of Zen Guitar Practice.
If you want to find out more on Zen guitar practice I would recommend “Zen Guitar” by Philip Toshio Sudo
Feel free to leave a comment. I’d appreciate it.
I only discovered your blog a couple of days ago, via twitter. I’ve read a few of your more recent entries and have become very inspired by your words. Not only did it Inspire me to re-start my own blog but after reading about your thoughts on song writing and inspiration, I managed to overcome the mental block I had been suffering from after waiting for inspiration to come to me.
Over the next few days I’ll probably read some of the older entries, but, I look forward to future words of wisdom.
Klaus Crow says
Great to hear you managed to overcome this mental block.
It is something that happens to a lot of writers and song writers.
I hope you are on your way to a fresh start with your blog and your songwriting.
Thank you for the nice compliment.
Thanks for reminding me for the tip of practicing the things slow…Thats what i often forget..Last week I had a skiing holyday which was great. By skiing counts also the Mantra: if you start skiing, ski slow, focus on your technique,and if your technique is good speed up bit by bit…
Thats what i am gone do more now..Practising on my guitar…:-)
Scotty Smith says
Love the lesson Klaus. I have never tried applying zen or any form of meditation to my guitar playing, but this sounds great and I will give it a try for sure. Thanks!
Klaus Crow says
You’re right, it applies to many things.
Slow is the way to go. I know the feeling of impatience,
but you will definitely create better results by going slow first.
Happy to hear you had a great holiday!
Klaus Crow says
Let me know when you have tried.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and findings.
I found this blog “incidentally” yesterday and I found it very interesting, educating and motivating.. I started playing guitar 4 months ago without any previous guitar experience. I juz fall in love with it but there seem to be many obstacle in practicing, mainly about not having enough time to practice beside of the techniques. I totally agree that practicing/playing guitar is the same as meditating itself. I think playing/practicing guitar need both to think/concentrate/focus and not to think in the same time, this sound very contradictive, but I feel that way in all of my guitar practice time. Losing concentration will ruin our guitar play as much as lots of thoughts while playing. I think solitude is mandatory in practicing, being alone while practicing lets us have less tension and help us to pay attention to every details without distraction. Practicing guitar with people around/ tv/ in public place is a big “no no” (that’s my thought).
My 22 months daughter seems to be interested in guitar, she always take my guitar while i’m playing it and start to strum/pick the strings. And to my surprise is that she call Steve Vai (when we watch him playing guitar on youtube) as “clever”, how come she knows about good guitarist and guitar play (????)
I have one question in my mind. In playing classics, should we (woman) also need to sit in classical position like male guitarist? coz the position looks quite ‘unpolite’ for woman.
Thanks for making this blog and I’m looking forward for more tips and thoughts… :-)
Libor Hořejší says
Hallo.My English isn’t good,but I find friends of Zen guitar.I play on basguitar,spanisch guitar and I am singer very little to.I am glad buddhism to.It is my way.Nice to meet your web.Thank you.
This is a great post. Thank you. I think it’s a very important topic and it’s great to see this discussed.
It is a fact that many of the most revolutionary musicians used drugs to enter a flow state of peak creativity. It is a form of cheating, in my opinion. Look at the greatest innovators of rock, jazz and blues music and you’ll find that very few of them achieved this peak state of creativity sober. It is undeniable that using drugs as flow enhancers works, if you are willing to accept the consequences. Many have lost their lives and many others leave a trail of wrecked relationships, self-loathing, and unfulfilled potential.
I’ll admit that I used to smoke marijuana and sometimes have a few drinks to help me reach a flow state when playing. For me, it was something I could do that would instantly change me from being uninspired and tired to being totally inspired, with just a couple of hits. While it worked to some degree, it also came with detrimental side effects to my spiritual progress and health, and worse, led to a belief that I could not play to my fullest without them. It hindered my spiritual progress, and so I stopped using them.
I’m now devoted to finding the most effective practice of achieving a super blissful flow state, while totally sober. And it’s not something that comes without a focused practice. It takes devotion. For I’m not interested in being sober at the expense of living life without equal levels of flow and ability to instantaneously achieve inspiration, as was available before. For this, focused meditative approach is the way. And the guitar is a beautiful tool for connecting with Oneness.
One thing I would add to the article is for people to explore the practice of singing what you play. This is a beautiful way to silence the incessant chatter of the mind, and direct the attention back to sound. It connects us with the instrument. And it is the best form of ear training possible.
It is also very nice to begin each session with simply play a few beautiful notes, and fully feeling the vibration of the instrument in your hands, arms, chest (resting against the guitar body) and leg (if sitting). Then, as you play, continue to make the tone as beautiful as possible regardless of what you are playing.
Thanks again for this post.
Awesome, Thank you for sharing! I will be trying to apply this to my practice routine from now on.
My brother suggested I might like this web site. He was totally
right. This post actually made my day. You
cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this
I have desire to learn how to play guitar, but my mind is blocked, there are too many info from different sources and so many decisions I must make. How to focus on most important thing and how to stay on the right track?
Make a list of your goals with guitar. How far do you want to go with it, party player, songwriter, band member? Break down what you need to learn to achieve one of those goals. Let’s say you want to be able to play a few songs round the fire with friends. You will need to learn 4 or 5 chords. Technique for this element would be to pick two of the chords and move between them extremely, painfully slowly, visualise the shape of the chord you are moving to so that when your fingers land on the fretboard they are already in the right position. Practice in five minute blocks, set a timer. Another technical thing might be to practice relaxing your grip on the chords so you can begin to find the minimum pressure required to sound good. Go through the chord string by string, check if each note sounds good. One of your sub-goals should be to be able to play with out tension in your body, relaxed and comfortable. Check the internet to find out the best body position for Spanish/acoustic/electric guitar. Use a guitar strap so you don’t have to change anything if you want to stand up/sit down. You will need some songs, pick three that you know well and find inspiring but that you know are not technically difficult. Sing the lyrics. Everyone can sing and you can entertain people with 3 chords and voice much easier than with solo guitar. Hope this helps. Remember always break things down into the smallest possible chunks and play everything very slowly and cleanly then build up speed. Oh and get a metronome when you get further down the road :) Aston
Klaus, for your Zen guitar session I have two suggestions that have helped me. 1 affirmations – say out loud sentences about your guitar goals in the present tense as if you have already achieved the goal. Don’t ask me why but this works incredibly well but needs to be done daily. 2 – get a diffuser (a little electrical device that is used for essential oils) and some rosemary essential oil. Turn it on in the room when you start the practice. No matter what you think about aromatherapy (I don’t really use it for anything else) you will notice a massive increase in focus. It is subtle sometimes, but suddenly you will look up from practice and realize that 20 minutes have passed and you have been deep focused learning all that time.
All the best, Aston
Lovely post, Thank you!
I’ve been reading Zen and the Art of Guitar by Jeff Peretzand am finding it very useful.