"The Yoga of Guitar" ....The Union of Body, Instrument & Music
After “The Principles”, this is my most important work. The information in “The Yoga of Guitar” is powerful, and priceless. Your practice and playing will never be the same!...............Jamie Andreas
It has been 20 years since I wrote "The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar". "The Principles" was the result of 25 years of research, teaching and testing with thousands of students. Since its publication, it has brought guitar enlightenment to many thousands more aspiring guitar players around the world, bringing them to a deeper level of understanding and ability about what it really takes to become a good guitar player, and keep getting better.
Over the years, many people have suggested to me that I write a "Principles 2". Well, I have done that, and it is called "The Yoga of Guitar". It is an entirely new system for the study of guitar, and brings all of the power of "The Principles" to a higher level that I could not have imagined when I finished "The Principles" 20 years ago.
For the last 20 years I have worked intensively with "The Principles", using them myself and with my students. In that time, a tremendous number of new insights revealed themselves to me, and I have worked very hard to collect them, refine them, and organize them into a new system. As I have worked with and developed these new insights and methods, I realized that this system could only be called "The Yoga of Guitar", because of the two meanings of the word "Yoga".
"Yoga" means "union" and this union is achieved through "skill in action", and that is precisely what this new system of study does for the guitar student. It fosters the powerful connection between player and instrument that all great guitar players have attained, and because of that connection, gives us the ability to express the essence of our music unburdened by the endless obstacles that prevent so many guitar players from achieving that state often called "effortless mastery".
“The Yoga of Guitar” is a communication of deep knowledge about playing and learning guitar. There are 5 components to this system. Consistent study of the various components will give you many new ways of thinking about, and doing, your guitar practice.
“The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar” is where the foundation of your abilities on guitar are built. “The Yoga of Guitar” extends and builds upon the training you receive from study of “The Principles”. If you give your complete and sincere attention and effort to the material found here, you will experience continuous growth in your playing abilities, as I have in the decades I have spent formulating and using them.
The "Yoga of Guitar" has 5 components. Each one covers a vital area of guitar knowledge. These 5 components are:
1- The Approach To The String
2-The Primary Dynamics
3-The Movement Process
4-Knowing The Notes
5-The Direct Mechanism
Component 1: The Approach To The String
The greatest difference between a great guitar player and someone who struggles with the guitar is how they touch the string. This may sound simple, it is not – it is profound. When someone learns how the guitar string must be touched to produce beautiful notes, they realize how profound this action is.
The first thing to be realized is that the act of touching the string does not just involve the finger, it involves the whole body. When you touch a string and apply pressure to produce the note, there are changes in your whole body. Because most people are not paying attention, they do not notice these changes. They do not notice the tightening of the body as the finger approaches the string, they do not notice the holding of the breath as the string is pressed. They do not notice the accumulated tension being held in the body with each note played. Only master players notice these things, train their body to act correctly on the string, and thereby avoid the greatest obstacles to easy playing.
You can hear the advice "relax" a million times, as many of us have over the years, and it will not make one iota of difference to your guitar playing. This knowledge must enter the body, before it can truly enter the mind. This movement routine called "The Approach to the String" teaches your whole body how to touch the string like a master player. As you perform this movement routine, and bring it into your playing and practice, your body will experience new sensations as you play. Then, you will know on a physical and mental level the real meaning of all the wonderful talk you have heard over the years about "relaxing" as you play.
Component 2: The Primary Dynamics
Playing the guitar is a complex process. Precisely controlling many of the smallest muscles in the body, while maintaining control of all the large muscles of the upper body, as is required in all guitar playing, and doing all of this as a continuous process of movement over time, is certainly one of the most complex activities human beings can learn and perform. The key to controlling any process is understanding the essential elements that must exist and combine to make that process possible.
That is why we take an exhaustive view of the fundamental elements of the guitar playing process in component of "The Yoga of Guitar". I call the elements the "Primary Dynamics" of playing the guitar. A primary dynamic is an irreducible action or condition necessary to produce notes on the guitar. We cannot even begin to learn guitar successfully unless these primary dynamics are respected in our practice. That is why you have been introduced to many of them in "The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar", even though I did not use that term to describe them.
Now, we go much deeper in our practice and understanding, as we learn about "The Cycle of the Note", and "The 3 Phases of the Note". Our control of these dynamics determines what guitar playing will feel like for us – easy, or difficult. If these dynamics are performed incorrectly, we will fight the guitar string itself, our playing will feel more like "battle" than "playing". If done correctly, with skill in action, we will learn how to actually use the energy of the string itself to produce our notes, which is what all great players do.
Component 3:The Movement Process
Here we examine the action of playing the guitar at the deepest level, understanding it as a process of movement composed of finger behaviors called “elements” and “sub-elements”. We learn how the correct knowledge and performance of these finger behaviors is essential to good playing. We also learn one of the most important characteristics that all good players possess - to see how the creation of each note is related to the notes that come before and after.
Great players know that the ability to play well requires that each note is played in a way that makes the next note easy to play. Undeveloped players play each note in isolation, they don't know how to perform the movement process of playing in a way that connects the notes as they must be connected in order to make music.
We learn how to arrange the behavior of our fingers on the strings in such a way that this connection of one note to another becomes possible in all the music we play. We learn a method of discovering this finger behavior as we practice. Consistent use of this method of analysis with all our music will transform our playing.
Component 4:Knowing The Notes
Movement follows thought. Trouble with our music, before it becomes physical, begins in the mind. Persistent problems can only be removed by the mind. We often have problems playing our notes because we don’t really know the notes we want to play. We think we do, but we don’t. Here, we learn what it really means to know our notes on the first level they must be known, the mental level.
We learn a method to use each time we practice so that the notes we need to play are firmly grasped by the mind, so that they can find their way to our fingers as we play.
Component 5:The Direct Mechanism
In order to operate and maintain a car, we must have a basic knowledge of its parts and the function of those parts, such as wheels, steering wheel, engine, etc. It is the same with playing the guitar, we must have a basic knowledge of all the parts of the body which are used in the act of playing. It goes far beyond the fingers!
We buy our car already assembled, but when we learn guitar, we must assemble the parts of the guitar playing machine ourselves. Having a basic understanding of these parts greatly facilitates our ability to do this.
Playing the guitar is a process of movement, and movement occurs at the joints of our body. Each of our joints is a “motion possibility”. Therefore, we must have a basic knowledge of the many joints of the hand, arm and upper body in order to use our playing machinery to its full potential.
We will take a look at the parts of this machine, and you will discover that having this knowledge gives you increased ability to develop, work with, and use your own guitar playing machine as you practice and play.