The introduction of L.H. training and the formation of notes on the fingerboard along with learning notes on the staff, present a new challenge in learning to play the guitar. This challenge calls for a procedure of study that will insure maximum accuracy in practice which is the important role of pre-reading—a product of visualization. One should be aware of being involved in the crucial process of acquiring basic habits that will determine one’s efficiency in learning to play. This determines how rapid and secure progress will be and therefore how well one will eventually play.
It’s essential to build secure habits of accuracy and confidence and to acquire the clearest possible aims. It’s necessary to reaffirm that muscles can only do what the mind tells them to do, and so one must have clear aims before beginning to play. This concept was first introduced in the Introduction, p. xiii, under the heading, Concerning the Role of the Mind in Playing the Guitar. Thus, to avoid confusion and error and progress quickly, it’s essential to understand both the rhythm and pitch aspects of the music and know where the notes are found on the guitar and how they are played. Thus pre-reading involves visualizing the piece before actually playing it—seeing the music unfold under one’s fingers as though played. This is part of the process of establishing and clarifying aims through vocalizing rhythm and pitch syllables. Pre-reading visualization is carried out in three relatively easy steps:
Step One: Scan
Pre-reading begins with the important scan (a term that means to examine closely). This involves taking time to carefully examine the piece for unfamiliar rhythms and pitches that may be confusing. If such problems are found, you need to acquire a thorough understanding of each one individually before going to the next step in pre-reading. If the scan reveals many such problems, the piece is probably too complex for you to approach at this time. It’s far better to choose material that appears to be a little too easy than a little too hard.
Step Two: Clarifying Rhythms (if necessary)
- Choose as slow a tempo as necessary to avoid confusion and error.
- Count aloud and gently clap each note while lightly tapping each count (the beat) with the toe of your foot to maintain a steady pulse.
- In clapping, hold the hands together for the duration of notes longer than one count, which for now are half and whole notes.
Step Three: Clarifying Pitches
- Tap the rhythm and vocalize (say or sing) the note names while clearly visualizing where each note is found on the guitar—ti, so, or re syllables for open string notes, OR if it is a new note and located on the fingerboard, visualization must also include the string, fret and finger as follows:
- Pre-read (visualize) a new note on the fingerboard by saying the string, fret and finger names a few times aloud until clarified. For example, A (la) would be identified as ③ at II (second fret) with 2 (second finger).
- Physically confirm the note’s location. Watch the placement of your finger on the string and fret location of the new note. Pre-read, play, and memorize short 2-, 3-, and 4-note figures containing the new note, such as in Ex. 10, p. 22; close your eyes, visualize and practice the finger movements until secure.
- Your aim in pre-reading should be to form a clear mental image of the five elements of basic visualization: 1) note name, 2) string, 3) location (fret or open ), 4) left-hand finger or “o” (for open), and 5) rhythmic duration, by vocalizing the syllabic name of the note aloud. Each syllable, in effect, serves as a syllabic cue that, with practice, prompts an instant visualization of the other four elements. For example, saying la would prompt an instant mental image of ③ at II with 2, plus its rhythmic function.
While syllabic cues are effective either sung (the guitar can be used to establish pitches), or spoken, most musicians would probably agree that, range permitting, singing is more beneficial. In either case, the important issue in this step of pre-reading/visualization is to establish clear aims—to avoid forming habits of confusion and error.