Think Like a Farmer:
Planting and Watering Seeds
I often like to say to students that learning to play guitar should be simple. I’m choosing my words very carefully here- should be simple. I’m not being smarmy! Instead, I’m just trying to remind both them and me that to reach our guitar goals we just need to plant and water the right kinds of seeds… and that’s all! Everything else we often add is secondary, tiring and in the way, bigtime!
I have found it useful to aspire to the understanding and patience of a good gardener or farmer when it comes to improving my skills… Such a person is happy to do the simple things in the moment that they KNOW will produce the results, the fruit, that they would like. They find enjoyment in PLANTING the seeds and looking forward to the day that will come when each seed inevitably produces its shoots. When you can take this laid back but persistent attitude you can improve at the fastest rate humanly possible…
Ok, there’s a LOT packed in here so let’s break it down.
“It should be simple“
For us guitarists, what are our seeds? Well, it begins with physicality (but the process is the same for musical concepts and ear training too)- our minds have the task of sending impulses to our hands with the clear command to perform an action that is just beyond what they are currently capable of. A guitar teacher should make the commands that are appropriate for you, crystal clear. Then, we wait while our bodies undergo the process of trying to change to perform the behaviour they can’t yet do. That’s the WHOLE process… Since we are training our brains here, it’s very important to repeat the same commands over a minimum period of time (a few minutes at least) because brains install patterns.
“It should be simple”
Ha! But so often it’s just not. Unfortunately, simple doesn’t always mean easy, especially with something as fiddly as playing the guitar. So what gets in the way? If the only thing that contributes to the development of our skills is the sum total of ‘seeds’ we plant what else do we do to make it a slow and difficult thing?
Frustration. Expectation. Doubt. Comparison. Distraction… Anger!?
These are the pests in our garden and the more of them we allow to creep in the more we are just in our own way and slowing the process down.
So, what’s the solution? I really like to explore this because every small measure to take pest energy and convert it to practice energy is our friend. Understanding and Trust are one of the best answers. Understand that your brain and hands have the same potential as anyone’s. Trust that the training process is actually a simple one, and that by removing the struggle you can patiently repeat the ONE THING that will get you where you want to go- repeat these mental commands for your body to follow.
This is thinking like a farmer- plant seeds and guard against pests! The next time you sit down to practice, see if you can take a little bit of energy away from pests and put it into your planting of seeds. Not only will you get better at guitar but you will also get better… at getting better.
Let your guitar-playing snowball!