This Does Not Feel Natural
A student learns his first scale and gets taught proper technique for scale playing: thumb behind the neck so the hand can open and stretch, relaxing the hand, playing each note just before the fretwire, playing super slow. The student´s immediate response is: "Why do I have to do it this way? This does not feel natural!"
This is a sentence every guitar teacher will hear millions of times during his lifetime and often we might just brush it off by saying: "I know, just keep doing it."
What I want to do today, is take a look of what is behind that statement and see what students can do to make their guitar playing life easier.
The question we should ask is this: natural compared to what? Walking, taking a cup out of a shelf, eating an apple? What is the benchmark by which we define what´s natural? Activities of daily life, other instruments?
If I asked you, if the activity of walking feels natural to you, you´d probably agree, right?
Now think back when you started taking your first steps as a baby. Walking did clearly not feel natural to you, otherwise you would not have fallen on your face every few seconds. Nonetheless, you got up, tried again and again and in time you turned an awkward movement into something that became natural by doing many repetitions. Imagine, if you decided after the first two attempts that walking does not feel natural compared lying in your crib and went on to abandon the whole walking project to continue to crawl for the rest of your existence - how would your life look today? You´d be crawling around in the office!
The point is this: everything you do today did not feel natural, when you´ve first tried and learnt it. Hence, it does not make sense to compare a completely new movement to one that you have performed millions of times and then judging that the new movement is not natural. Also keep in mind, that the movements of guitar playing are really far removed in resemblance from anything else you do in life, so there can be no transfer from other similar activities unless you have played other stringed instruments before.
Another thought to ponder: Would it not be weird if you took up guitar playing, start to learn all the strange new movements that the hand does not want to make and thinking: Wow, this feels like I´ve been doing this forever! Super easy! Totally feels like home.
I assume this has never happened.
So what is the student´s problem? The movement is not the problem, but a totally unrealistic comparison and expectation in the student´s mind - that´s the problem.
So what can the student do about it?
Step 1.) Becoming aware of the automatic comparison and unrealistic expectation that the mind is coming up with
Step 2.) Realizing that it is nonsense
Step 3.) Dropping that expectation
Step 4.) Accepting that it takes quite some time for a new movement to feel natural
Step 5.) Simply doing the necessary repetitions while ignoring the mind´s constant comments
This will lead to a much less frustrating experience of learning the movements of guitar playing.
About the author:
Derk Stiepelmann is the owner of the Songwriter´s Shed guitar school in Dortmund, Germany. If you live in the area and are looking for guitar lessons in Dortmund, be sure to contact him by clicking the link.