Jamie Andreas, Author at Guitar Principles

All Posts by Jamie Andreas

About the Author

Jamie Andreas has one goal: to make sure that everyone who wants to learn guitar is successful. After her first 25 years of teaching, she wrote the world acclaimed method for guitar "The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar". She put everything into this method that was essential for success on guitar. Called "The Holy Grail" of guitar books, the Principles has enabled thousands of students who tried and failed to play guitar for years or even decades, to become real guitar players. In 2012 Jamie was profiled in "Guitar Zero" (Penguin Press 2012), a study of how adults learn to play guitar. Jamie was interviewed along with some of the worlds leading guitarist/teachers, including jazz legend Pat Martino and Tom Morello ("Rage Against The Machine").

Dec 21

Mystery, Beauty and Grace

By Jamie Andreas | Guitar Philosophy , Uncategorized

In my study of great musicians, I have noticed that the very greatest are also very spiritual. Bach, Beethoven, Barrios, Santana -  anyone of whom I have ever heard or read, and believe to be a divinely inspired musician, has a very strong spiritual sense.

I believe that  Spirituality, or the forms it takes when encased in Religion, is rather simple in its essence. I  believe it is the expression of three things, a Sense of Mystery, a Sense of Beauty, and a Sense of Grace.  If you have these three things then you are a truly spiritual person, if you lack these, you can pray all day, but your words will be hollow to elevated ears.  

 I think it is essential for everyone on the artistic path to know about these things, because although you can be a person in this world without these things, you cannot be an artist in this world without them. These three things are waiting inside all of us. If you can locate them, touch them, and hold onto them throughout your life, then what you bring out into the world will be real art, and real religion.

A Sense of Mystery

The most primary spiritual quality is a sense of mystery. To be able to contemplate the unfathomable vastness of the universe, and feel it enter into your very cells, filling mind and body with excitement and awe, is the mother of true reverence, and true religion. It has been said “ a fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom”. In those days “fear of God” was how the perception of Mystery was described. It simply meant a proper understanding of your place in relation to the vastness of creation.

This sense of mystery is the wellspring of all human creativity, and so it is essential for the artist. Every artist feels that their creative work “emerges” from some mysterious source within, and it is their job simply to connect with that source, and, like a mother, be the vehicle for its birth into the human world. There is nothing worthwhile that has been produced without having begun from that intensely emotional feeling and foundation, so peculiarly human. All great music proceeds from there.

The greatest minds, intrigued by the curiosity that the sense of Mystery inspires, are constantly probing into themselves and into the world, seeking to deepen their understanding. At the end of the day, it is with a childish laugh that they dissolve back into Mystery, resigning themselves, like the great Issac Newton, to the realization that they are merely “children playing on the shore with pebbles, while the great ocean of the Universe rolls on.”

The eminent scientist Sir James Jeans, in his classic exposition of the philosophical implications of 20th century theoretical physics “Physics & Philosophy”, concludes:
”To sum up, physics tries to discover the pattern of events which controls the phenomena we observe. But we can never know what this pattern means or how it originates; and even if some superior intelligence were to tell us, we should find the explanation unintelligible. Our studies can never put us into contact with reality, and its true meaning and nature must be for ever hidden from us.”

I agree. Our immersion in mystery is built into the system, guaranteed!

A Sense of Beauty

After the knee and the head are unbowed from the overpowering experience of contemplation of the mystery of existence, we are left with a feeling of separateness, limitation, and dependence. We realize our seeming insignificance in the universe, we are a separate little dot in infinity. But now we are positioned to discover the most amazing and wonderful birthright of a human being. We can now look out to the world around us, and find ourselves in it.

Beauty is the silent language of the universe, through which it communicates its nature to the beings it creates. The language of Beauty imparts to us the knowledge of our oneness with nature, other people, indeed, all of existence.

To feel beauty is to feel a oneness with what is outside you, because on a deep level, you are feeling yourself within that other. Whatever brings you to this state of union, you will find to be beautiful.

There are common altars at which we gather to converse with reality in the silent language of Beauty, such as Music and all of the arts, all the forms of human contact, and especially Nature. From whence comes the power of Nature to inspire us with such transcendent feelings of awe and beauty as we contemplate the mountains, oceans, or stars? It is the very recognition of our own nature in Nature.

The rocks of our skeleton, the flora of our intestines, the water of our blood, and our inmost soul, recognizes itself in the world without. Just as the earth has birthed all the rocks, oceans, and trees and animals, so has it birthed us.

In our confrontation with Mystery, we realize the limitation of our nature to ever fully comprehend the ultimate reality. Having accepted that, we simply claim this part of our human birthright and enjoy direct communication of that unfathomable reality, which is the experience of Beauty.

The life of the artist is an immersion at one of the altars of beauty, and working to gain proficiency interpreting and speaking the language of Beauty. The job of the artist is the communication of ultimate Mystery, spoken in the language of Beauty.

A Sense of Grace

Mystery has revealed to us a sense of that which is greater than us. Beauty has responded by bringing that which is a part back to its Source, creating union, and Love, the desire and the fulfillment of that desire, to “be with”. Now, there directly arises, as a consequence of this positioning of the soul, the sense of Grace.

The word “grace” is from the Latin “gratias”, which means “good will”. There naturally arises in us now an overwhelming feeling that the universe, the Source of creation, has good will toward us. “It” is bestowing blessings, all blessings in fact, upon us. This becomes a powerful emotional experience, this ever present feeling of being the recipient of good will, of being loved. It seems to be not just a feeling, but a recognition. All religions contain this concept of Divine Grace. It is essential.

As the sense of Mystery imparts the feeling of awe, and the sense of Beauty imparts a feeling of love, so the sense of Grace imparts a feeling of gratitude. This is the distinguishing difference between someone who professes to be religious, and an atheist. The atheist has no one to thank.

The sense of gratitude is the purest human attribute. A person who is constantly and firmly founded in the sense of grace in response to everything life delivers, can never be corrupted, but will be and remain pure.

For an artist, this sense of gratitude becomes the reason, and the fuel, for creative work. The desire to use what one is given by grace is the form our gratitude takes. For each of us, in whatever way we sense the good will of the universe, in that way will we direct our good will outward, and that offering is our creative gift to the world.

All of this shows why it is true that many people who think they are atheists are not, and many who think they are religious are not. If you have within yourself the sense of Mystery, Beauty, and Grace, you are a religious person. It will be evident to anyone who knows how to look. If you do not, it is equally so.

All that I have ever achieved as an artist has come from my sense of Mystery and Beauty, and all I do for guitar players always has, and always will, proceed from my sense of Grace, my gratitude for what has been given to me.

GuitarPrinciples wishes you a Blessed and a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Jul 24

The Inner Master

By Jamie Andreas | Guitar Philosophy

Of all the things you can do to make sure you are enabling yourself to achieve your guitar playing dreams, finding the Inner Master is the greatest. All great players have found the Inner Master. The Inner Master wants us to be a good guitar player, and enrich the world with our music. 

How do we find the Inner Master? Actually, we don’t. The Inner Master finds us. The Inner Master finds us when we are ready to be found, when we are ready to listen. The Inner Master is like the “still small voice”, it can’t be heard when other voices are talking, or screaming, inside of us.

We won’t hear the Inner Master if we are busy hearing voices of worry and self doubt about how “good” we are on guitar, or if we can ever be “good”. We won’t hear the Inner Master if we are hearing voices of pride about what a great guitar player we are!. Worry and pride are noises that scare the Inner Master away.

We will hear the Inner Master when everything is quiet enough for the Inner Master to hear US when we play, or practice; that is, to hear our music. When our Inner Master can hear us play, He, or She, will instruct us, guide us, to our next step of development, to the next awareness we need in order to move beyond where we are. Our Inner Master should be the one we play for when we play. The Inner Master hears when we truly listen.

How To Be A Master

Mastery on the guitar is not the attainment of a state of perfection, it is the attainment of a position of inner power, and power is the ability to create change. We arrive at that position through the practice of essential attitudes. These attitudes allow us to see what is important, and what is true. They allow us to be Masters, right from the beginning of playing. What is a “Master”.

A Master is one in whom there is no obstacle from the outside to the inside, or from the inside to the outside. What does this mean?

I am practicing and I keep making mistakes. I get frustrated. I start to doubt whether I have what it takes to be a good player. The very emotional power of this frustration absorbs me, and prevents me from paying attention to the mistake I made, examining it, and figuring out a better way to go about things. I have allowed an obstacle from the outside (the mistake) to the inside (my emotional experience),

I am practicing and I keep making mistakes. I immediately become interested. I ask “Why did I miss that note? What did the finger do that it led to that mistake? What should it do? Let me play this a hundred times slowly, and pay great attention to my fingers, and the rest of the body those fingers are connected to”.

Now I am a master, I have not allowed an obstacle from the outside to the inside to take shape and have power.

I sit down to practice. I notice that I am feeling negative about my guitar playing and myself as a guitar player. Old tapes, old failures are playing in my head. I ignore them, I do not allow them to claim the attention I should be paying to my practice. I am too smart to think that I am even smart enough to judge my true potential. I have not allowed an obstacle on the inside to emerge outwardly and steal my power. I am a master.

Masters are never finished growing, they haven’t seen everything. They are just in a position from which they COULD see anything.

Finding The Inner Master

How do we find the Inner Master, or allow ourselves to be found? I really recommend a way I believe has been successfully used over the ages: find the Outer Master first. Or, we might say, be able to recognize the Outer Master when you do see him.

Nothing can release your own Inner Master more effectively than seeing a great player play. But, you have to know how to look. You have to look with complete openness, you have to absorb it all without “mentalizing” about it. You have to “feel” the great player, you have to feel like you ARE the great player.

I have always noticed a very peculiar thing. Whenever I would watch a great player play, as time went on and I went back to my practicing, I would notice that I was doing things a little differently, I was using a finger a bit differently, or I was feeling a bit different as I played, perhaps moving, or feeling my body in a new way. I realized I had picked up something by just watching a great player play.

Somehow, I had internalized, in a non-verbal and non-conscious way, something about the way that player was approaching playing the guitar, something about the way they were related to the whole thing.

 I once watched Segovia play a chord, and then bring his hand away from the strings in such a beautiful and graceful way. I felt afterward that I had learned worlds about how to touch the strings, and how to feel in the whole body as I did so. My Inner Master had connected to his Inner Master. I found my Inner Master through attention to an Outer Master.

When I was young I went to see Julian Bream play. I felt I learned a lot about being a master as I watched him simply walk out on stage! His incredible naturalness as he sauntered around to the front of the stage, combined with those red socks, conveyed so much about how one ought to feel about sharing the intensity of one’s relationship to music and the guitar with a crowd of strangers.

But watching Julian’s face as he played said more than anything else, and conveyed more than anything else could. His absolute involvement and concentration on the music, and his surrender to it, revealed the inner experience of a Master. The emotional intensity of the music, reflected in his face as he created and communed with it, made a harmony as beautiful as any in the music itself.

My Inner Master knew he was in his Alone Place, and that was the place for a player to be when he or she plays, and it helped me enter my own Alone Place. I have gotten that same feeling watching Stevie Ray, Angus, Jimi, etc. play. If playing Rock or Blues were my highest and most urgent calling, these would be the masters I would commune with.

When you can allow the eyes of your Inner Master to see the Outer Master, communication and transference will take place, you will discover the effects later.

What Does Mastery Look Like?

When someone is practicing Mastery and allowing themselves to be guided by the Inner Master, there is great movement. That movement is continuous, it never stops. It is always moving in the direction of perfection. When someone is stuck on a "playing plateau", the problem is not the plateau. The problem is the lack of movement. 

After 50 years of practicing Mastery, my daily practice is like entering a rocket ship. The movement is powerful, the distances traveled are galactic. Each day the journey forward begins from where it ended the day before, and new insights, built upon old, come faster then I can write them down. What my Inner Master reveals to me, I reveal to my students. 

What Does Mastery Feel Like?

For 50 years I have served the Inner Master with love and devotion to music and the guitar. The countless thousands of hours of my practice feel like one long moment. Every time I touch the strings, it feels new. There is a constant feeling of satisfaction for progress made and excitement for progress to come.

All my students, when they learn and practice the secrets of correct practice, have the same feelings, and receive the same rewards.

Assume The Position of Mastery

Mastery is a position we take. We do not have to wait to take that position, it can be recognized and found within us even from the beginning. If you can keep your love of music and desire to play in it’s original purity, free from contamination of ego, free from the bondage of service to the ego and it’s needs, then you will hear the voice of your Inner Master.

The Inner Master knows the best you are capable of at any moment, and will accept no less than that. The Inner Maser will accept nothing less than the music you make when your whole being is fully immersed in the making of the music, when the notes being made are made from your complete love and honest and passionate involvement, nothing else.

Then, as you and your Inner Master listen and enjoy together, with gratitude for the sounds being released from the strings and commitment to your own continuing quest for excellence, the Inner Master speaks to you, the Inner Master guides you, and you learn.

Jul 10

The 2 Kinds Of Guitar Growth You Need

By Jamie Andreas | The Informed Guitar Student

Are you getting better on guitar, or just playing more things badly?


There are two kinds of growth we can experience on guitar.  I call them Vertical & Horizontal Growth.Both are necessary, but Vertical growth is hard to come by!

When someone who has been playing for awhile comes to me for a guitar lesson, I always try to find out why they have come to me. I ask them  "What do you want to do that you  can't do now."

They often say "Well, I play lots of things, but I play them all the same way. I want to learn how to do chord melody solos, more interesting chords and strums, and also improve my fingerpicking so I can try some classical. I'd also like to be able to play fast runs without missing so many notes!"

In other words, they want to move to a higher level as a player. They want to make Vertical Growth. They want to get better and be able to do things they can't do yet.

They don't want to continue to learn new songs and play them the same way. That would be Horizontal Growth. Everyone can always make Horizontal Growth, even on their own. You just learn more material, but you don't actually play any differently, musically or technically. Vertical progress as a player is the tough one. It requires what is usually considered "work".

 I have always found it enjoyable, although challenging.

I Can't Play Anything! 

Here is another even more common scenario. Someone comes in for lessons after playing for awhile, and when I ask them to play, they make a couple of excuses, and then they play really badly! Then I ask them to play something else, and they play that really badly! This is the person unable to create any Vertical Growth. They started, as we all do, with no ability,a and have not been able to develop ability on guitar.

The reason they cannot raise their level as a player, is because they don't know how to practice to solve problems and achieve results. Also, because of this, there is no solid foundation of technique for Vertical Growth to be built upon. So there is only Horizontal Growth, more things played the same way, in this case, badly.

Sadly, I have seen hundreds of would-be players in this situation.  

These players have no choice but to go from song to song, and piece to piece, struggling and and mutilating all of their music as they go along. It's sad, and unnecessary.

If you love the guitar, and are dedicated to your own development as a player, if you are dying to play the way the guitarists you admire play, you must know how to create Vertical Growth. This is done through an understanding of how to practice. I am of course talking about correct practice, not repetitive "run throughs" that only re-enforce the muscle tensions causing the problems you already have.

The Good News

From my experience as a player and as a teacher, it is extremely difficult to create Vertical Growth, once bad, or insufficient practice has locked in tension and bad habits. The good news is, it is not impossible. In fact, the word difficult is not the best word. I use it only because we have such a tendency to under-estimate the intensity of concentration it takes to undo past damage. A better word is "challenging".

 If you want to keep getting better and better as a guitarist, you had better learn to love challenges! As Mark Twain said "Life is one damn thing after another", and that is what playing and practicing are. One damn problem to deal with after another. But as we learn to actually deal with and solve those problems, what a sweet reward we earn.

It is not the problems we face in our playing that are really the obstacle to our growth. It is the growing feeling of frustration and helplessness we experience as time continues to go by, and we see no fundamental improvement. We start to feel helpless. We may not admit this feeling to ourselves, we only notice that, for some reason, we are beginning to lose our motivation to practice.

When we learn how to really practice, we start to feel powerful. Problems and challenges don't frighten us, they excite us. Because we know that we can look forward to those problems getting smaller and smaller, weaker and weaker, as we continue to do powerful, correct practice. 

If you want to learn how to have this Vertical Growth as a regular experience for you, I invite you to look around this site further for more information about "The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar".

Jul 05

How To Learn Rock Guitar Songs and Solos

By Jamie Andreas | Rock & Blues

How do we learn how to play rock songs and rock guitar solos on guitar so that they actually sounds like the original?

When a student wants to learn a real live rock solo, the student gets the tab off the internet, then the student looks at the series of “numbers” on the tab sheet and dutifully attempts to turn each number into a “note”. Often, the student is not really listening to the sounds which are the result of these efforts, and is certainly not comparing them to the original solo.  Unless we are constantly comparing out efforts to the original, we will have no success.

Learning guitar is teaching the fingers how to move. This is called “motor control learning”. For motor control learning to take place, the principle of “knowledge of results” must be applied. The essence of this principle is that we cannot acquire and improve a motor skill if we do not receive some kind of feedback that gives us an awareness of how close our efforts are to the model we are attempting to copy. If we are shooting a basketball we cannot improve if we can’t see the hoop, evaluate our effort, and make corrections for the next attempt. We will talk about how to do that below.

First, let’s talk about the skills that must be in place before we can learn how to play rock songs on guitar.

First Learn The Essential Skills

Many students attempt to learn rock songs and solos when they have not even mastered the fundamental skills that are constantly used in rock music. These skills are:

  • string bending in all its variations, such as pre-bending, done with each finger
  • vibrato on plain notes and bent notes
  • string raking and string muting
  • ability to play rock scales with power and speed

Music is a language. To speak a language we must first learn to make the sounds that are grouped together to make the words and sentences of that language.  If these skills are not in place, your playing will sound like someone speaking with a speech impediment!  The lack of knowing the right way to do these things will make it impossible for the music to emerge.

After learning the essential skills, we must understand the specific practice approach necessary to use for learning electric guitar solos.

Get Your Practice Setup Together: A/B Testing

Listen To The Model: When you sit for practice, you must have far more than the tab to the solo you are working on in front of you. The most important thing to have is some kind of recording of the solo you are working on (the model), so that you can listen to it, bit by bit, as you work on each lick in the solo. The best thing is if it is on some kind of player that will also play it half speed, so you can switch back and forth between the actual speed and half speed. One such program is Amazing Slow Downer.

The right sound is much more elusive in rock/blues than in other styles. This is because of the highly individual nature of a player’s style and sound, and the actual manner of producing sound in this style, which leaves more room for error. By this I mean string bending.

The infinite variety of sounds made possible by the technique of bending strings makes it imperative for students to be constantly comparing their efforts during practice to the solo they are learning. It may sound obvious, but I am constantly meeting students who don’t do this!

Listen To Yourself: This is the part that most students get wrong! As you are working on the solo, you must constantly record yourself, lick by lick, and then listen to the original. Ask yourself “does my playing sound like the original”? You must estimate how close or how far your playing is from that of the original. If there is a gap (and there almost always is!), you must work to close that gap. For this, you must know how to practice correctly.

After listening and judging your  own playing against the model, you make another attempt, recording yourself. Then, listen and compare again. Rinse and repeat until there is no difference between your playing and the model. You must discover exactly how yours is falling short, and then figure out how to fix it. Are the bends in tune? Is the vibrato even? Is the rhythm correct, and how about articulation? Your goal is to sound as good, as polished and professional as the original.

Putting It Together

After working on the solo in small pieces, and you feel your playing is reasonably close to the original in quality, it is time to start putting it together. You must do this by actually playing the solo to the rhythm background. This is something most students do not do, and it will prevent you from ever approaching a professional level of ability. You should never consider that you know a solo unless you have listened back to yourself playing it to the recorded rhythm background.

Once you get the solo together, stand up with your guitar and play along with the original. This will do wonders for your feel and timing. See if you can keep up through to the end. If not, find and fix the problems (correct practice again!).

For any solo you are working on, you should learn the rhythm as well, and record it at various tempos. Master the whole thing at a slow tempo first, maybe playing it to the background chords played at half tempo. The best idea is to make 4 or 5 versions of the rhythm part at different tempos for your practice sessions.

These days all students should avail themselves of the tremendous resources for study that are available; everyone should have some kind of multi-tracking software available (which can be found for as low as 20 or 30 dollars), and begin their own collection of recorded solos. You will experience great growth as a player if you do.

I am not saying that everything you practice must be swallowed whole, and mastered in its entirety. Sometimes you just might like a small part of a solo, or one lick perhaps. There is nothing wrong with just sitting down and copying a fragment of something you like, but you should still use the same approach of comparing it, in recorded form, to the original. But along the way, you should master some whole songs, or whole solos, and prove yourself on tape. The next step, of course, is to prove yourself in a live situation by finding people to play with (of course, that means dealing with other real live human beings, and brings about challenges far beyond the scope of what I wish to talk about here!).

Summing Up

What is your “exit strategy” for any solo or song you are working on? How do you know when you “know it”? When all these things are in place…….

  1. Make sure you have nailed the basics of electric guitar – scales, bends, and vibrato, and muting. Many people trying to learn solos have not done this.
  2. Have a recorded version of the solo you are trying to learn. Be able to slow it down.
  3. Have something to record yourself with.
  4. Work lick by lick, recording yourself and comparing it to the original.
  5. Learn the rhythm and play along with it.
  6. Play through the solo along with the artist playing the original
  7. Find other players to play the solo with
May 03

How To Touch A Guitar String – Playing From The String

By Jamie Andreas | How To Practice Guitar

Play from the string

 This is one of the secrets of the masters of guitar. All good players are doing this, even if they don't know what it means! Here's what it means.....

Ancient Wisdom On Guitar Playing

Throughout my life, I have always been on the lookout for nuggets of wisdom that would occasionally drop from the lips of great players. Unfortunately, I realized early on that most of the time, the nugget was all you got! There would usually be no explanation or elaboration of the meaning of the statement. Such statements tended to be obscure, and although I knew there was great meaning in them, the meaning was inaccessible.

One of the most inscrutable statements was the admonition to “play from the string”. I would run across this statement in different places, as various master players would use it in discussions of the way they approached playing the guitar, and wonder what it meant. It seemed to have something to do with the idea of “touching” the string before playing it. Okay, I can try working with that, but how is that possible if you are playing at super fast speeds? Are you telling me that a good player takes the time to touch the string and then play it-even if they are playing really fast? How is that possible? There doesn’t seem to be time for that. That was where my understanding began to break down.

Well, there’s nothing like decades of playing and teaching to help fill in the gaps in one’s understanding! I think I have a pretty good grasp of this now, and I will share it with you.

I was in a lesson a while ago that brought this subject to the forefront. The student had brought her scales (on electric with a pick) up to around 80 bmp in 16th notes. She had started from a basic inability to play scales smoothly and reliably at any speed, due to the usual fundamental flaws in technique and overall practice approach. But now, as we were hitting a wall at around 80bpm, it was starting to break down.

It was interesting because there were no visible signs of things being done wrong. The pick work was good, the left hand form and movement, which we had been working on for awhile, was also good-there was nothing obvious and visible to focus on as the source of the problem. Most students in this difficult position would be told to “practice more”. Indeed, it seemed like the kind of thing that “just needs more work”.

In my opinion and experience, that may or may not be true. This student, and others in her position, may, after months of dogged practice, begin to melt that obstruction and find their speed going up. But it is probably more likely that they would not. I have seen players who are stuck for years in this spot, and cannot seem to make that scale speed budge.

This is because the nature of the problem is very, very subtle. It cannot be seen, it must be sensed by the teacher, and the teacher must guide the student to inwardly “feel” it. And, it has everything to do with playing from the string.

Don’t “Bat” The Strings!

As I watched my student’s right arm while she played, I was aware that there was a “tightness” to it, even though her form was good. Yes, the hand itself did not look tense, and the pick was staying close to the strings, but still there was a subtle tension present that seemed to be going throughout the arm, and into the shoulder and beyond, during the playing. Although she started very relaxed, this tension was there after the first note was struck, and not only remained, but got worse as the 2 octave scale progressed. The faster the speed, of course, the worse it got.

So, I began to explain a bit about some of the subtle dynamics of the physical act of touching a string with the pick, applying force, and repeating that process.

The first fact to appreciate is that as soon as we play a note, the hand, wrist, arm, and shoulder region tense up. They must tense up to a degree, in reaction to the force the string applies back to the pick. Most players tense too much during this reaction and most importantly, do not release the tension reaction before the next note is played. This single dynamic, by itself, is responsible for preventing a great number of players from advancing to their next level, and also prevents a great many beginners from being successful in their efforts to learn guitar, causing them to give up.

So, if we keep tension in the arm between the notes, while the arm/hand are moving to the next note, what do we have? We have a tense arm swinging through the air, like a plank of wood batting at the strings! Can you appreciate how destructive that is of the act of smooth playing? Can you imagine performing other physical actions requiring great coordination and control – especially actions where the body must come into forcible contact with an object – and keeping the body tense throughout the action? Can you imagine running while keeping the legs tense? Or boxing and throwing punches with a tense arm? How about falling and tensing the body as you hit the ground? Ouch! Crack!

Now, most students are suffering from some degree of this situation, and this student has attained a relatively high degree of smooth functioning already, especially compared to where we started. But, these are the kind of things that come up for all of us when we hit what for us is our current playing limit, and when we do hit our limit, subtleties such as this is one of the primary places we want to look.

I realized that I needed to deepen my students understandings of these dynamics in a way that would translate into real results and real progress.

The Necessary Conversation Between Player and String

First, some imagery and metaphors.

One of the best ways of becoming sensitive to the realities of playing with a pick (or fingers) upon a string is to think of a tightrope walker. Imagine yourself on a highwire, 100 feet up in the air. Where we are on the highwire is our first concern. Think of how different it would feel to have to step on to the wire at one end, with one foot, as opposed to being on the middle of the string. This is how different it is, from the perspective of the hand and arm, to play near the bridge with its much higher tension, or to play at the middle of the string. For our highwire analogy, let’s assume we are lucky enough to start with both feet placed on the wire, near the middle.

Let’s imagine we are balanced with both feet on the wire, and are going to take a step over to one side, and commence walking along the wire. As soon as we lift a foot in the air, everything changes! All of our weight goes on to one foot, and our center of gravity is drastically different, requiring an immediate re-adjustment of all our muscles as they seamlessly adapt to the new situation, this new set of dynamics. People who can do this with some facility are said to have a good “sense of balance”, and while that is true, they are obviously doing a few things, and not doing some other things.

Imagine if, as we lifted one foot and thereby created this different set of dynamics, we kept all of our muscles tense, so that when the need for an entirely new set of dynamics instantly appears with the lifting of the foot, we are unable to make that adjustment because all our muscles are tensed. This tension kept in the muscles would compel our body to meet the new set of dynamics caused by lifting our foot with the same adjustment with which we met the entirely different dynamics of being on two feet. We would be in trouble. We would be in for a fall.

What should happen?

Get the knowledge  & training that will get YOU "playing from the string"!


"The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar"

yoga of guitar by Jamie Andreas

"The Yoga of Guitar" by Jamie Andreas

1st: Study "The Principles"

2nd: Study "The Yoga of Guitar"

Learn the deepest secrets of great guitar playing. These 2 works will reveal a new level of understanding guitar technique that will revolutionize your playing.

Well, obviously as soon as we begin to lessen pressure with our foot, we should be in intimate contact with the string, its changing state of tension, and how that feels to our body. If we have a sense of balance, that means that our marvelous computer brain is able to calculate all the intricate muscle adjustments we must make in order to keep our body upright on the wire.

Of course, this intimate contact with the string is there continuously for the skilled tightrope walker. The wire is always “talking” to them, always communicating its condition to the tightrope walker, and the tightrope walker is always listening. This is what the skillful guitar player is doing when they play. They are continuously in intimate contact with the ever-changing state of the strings, as the fingers of both hands, or the pick, works upon them. The skillful guitarist is always “listening” to the strings. (This is one reason why slow practice is so necessary, so that the “listening” can take place on a most intimate level.)

When we are playing skillfully, we are also doing something else. We are also talking to the strings, and telling them what we want. Every time we touch the string with finger or pick, we are talking to the string, and telling it what we want. The string then talks back to us, and tells us what we must do to get what we want. When this conversation is taking place intensely and unhindered, so that there is an intimate communion between finger and string, and a feeling of oneness between ourselves and the guitar, we are playing from the string.

Communing With The String

How do we begin to commune with the string, and engage in this necessary conversation between our body and mind and the string? Especially after a long time, perhaps our whole playing life, of being deaf to the string, and unknowingly using a too tensed limb, hand, and fingers to play upon the strings? Well, as the wicked witch said to Dorothy when it came to removing the Ruby Slippers, “These things must be done d-e-l-i-c-a-t-e-l-y!”

The situation is this: the arm, and indeed the musculature of the entire upper body, is entirely habituated to this level of chronic tension while playing. The player cannot become directly aware of this excessive tension, it feels normal and necessary. We need a process of intervention.

Here is how I began to intervene in this process with my student, and began to coax the muscles to a new experience and a new functioning.

First, I had her do an awareness exercise with the pick. We called it “Hello, Goodbye”. Following a principle I often employ in pedagogical diagnoses, I removed one of the dynamics from the playing process, in this case, the dynamic of applying pressure to the string. I began by removing this dynamic because it is this dynamic that causes the tension reaction in the arm. I had her simply bring the pick to the string, slowly and lightly, and merely touch the string, apply no pressure, and take the pick quickly away.

I had her play the whole scale slowly like this, with no pressure and no sound. Very simple, and very effective in teaching the arm to perform the action of bringing the pick to the string and not going into the automatic tension reaction it had become habituated to.

Second, we performed the same action, except this time we brought the pick to the string, and then applied a very small amount of pressure with the pick, paying attention to the small rise of tension in the arm that must accompany this action, and then removing the pick, paying attention to, and enforcing the release of that previous small rise in tension. (Principled Players will recognize this as a version of the gradual pressure technique, a practice tool used frequently throughout the Foundation Exercises from “The Principles”).

The mind must do its part here, it must be investing these movements with conscious awareness, or there is no benefit. The physical actions are merely providing the mind with the opportunity to perform its necessary function in the practice process, to “infuse conscious awareness into the body through the mechanism of attention”.

Finally, we brought the pick to the string, applied a small amount of pressure to the string, and instead of taking the pick away and relaxing, we pushed through, and “relaxed through” the string. When doing this, we think of, feel, and re-create the same feeling of relaxation in the hand and arm that we had when we merely took the pick away from the string without playing.

This is the essential procedure for undoing the condition we have been examining, and for beginning to learn how to “play from the string”. Using this procedure, we simply work with it daily, using the Basic Practice Approach (Chapter 5 in “The Principles Of Correct Practice”, the summary approach of all the Principles as applied to a working practice procedure). By doing this exercise, we are disrupting the habitual action of the arm as it goes to the string, which is the action of bringing an already tense arm to the string, and smashing at the string with this unresponsive arm, instead of bringing an arm to the string that is able to interact with the string upon contact.

These exercises must be done daily, with great focus, over an extended period of time. It will take weeks to months to undo the previous habits and functioning of the arm and hands. However, an entirely new level of playing will now be possible for the student who wants this higher level of playing ability enough to pay this price.

The “Rubber Effect”

Over time, the entire feeling of playing will change as the arm and indeed the entire upper body learns to react in a completely new way to the experience of interacting with the string. When I was in the early stages of this conversion process myself, I began to notice an entirely new sensation in playing. It was this: the strings began to feel like rubber bands! Yes, they began to have an entirely elastic quality to my touch, as my touch became refined. I called it “the rubber effect”, and began to look for it and explore it. At the time, I did not understand what was happening and had no knowledge of all the theoretical background I have given you here, I just knew that all of a sudden, playing the guitar was beginning to feel radically different. I discovered the sensation first by following my intuitions in practice, discovering these sensations, observing them and finally, analyzing them.

In comparing these sensations to the sensations they were replacing, I realized that this “elastic” quality was so noticeable because it was replacing a very “hard” unyielding, and inelastic sensation that my hands and body had previously experienced while playing. Of course, I did not think of it as a “hard” sensation because I had nothing to compare it to, it was simply “normal”, and this is precisely the fate of so many players- playing feels “hard” to them, it is often uncomfortable, and they think that this is just the way it is, and good players are somehow dealing with it. No, they are not; good players are having a different experience altogether.

The important thing to realize is that the sensation of the strings as “hard” or as “rubbery” is not actually a reflection of the state of the strings; it is a reflection of the state of our body as we play. As we do with every self-generated reality, we project it outward, and believe that it is “the way things are”. This is a great deception and a great illusion. The “hardness” of the strings prior to my discovery was the result of the fact that my relatively hard musculature was coming into contact with the strings with every note I played. I was experiencing my own state, not the state of the strings. When I changed the state of my body as I played by changing the way I was interacting with the strings, I experienced that was a change in the feeling of the strings.

Well, there you have it, one of the most important and subtle insights you can have into the process of playing the guitar. Take a while to wrap your brain around it. These kind of things usually take months to years to fully germinate and bear fruit, so think about it, re-read this many times, make your own observations and draw your own conclusions as you practice and play (from the string, of course!).

place to play guitar
Apr 09

The Alone Place – The Best Place To Play Guitar!

By Jamie Andreas | Guitar Philosophy

I am sitting in the forest right now, having the exquisite pleasure of listening to music that is in many ways more divine than the music I make. It’s Thursday, somewhere late in the afternoon. I’m not sure exactly what time it is, and I don’t really want to know. I don’t want to experience time right now. I am in my favorite place to play guitar, and I want to experience only movement and change, and the stillness that lies beneath them both.

I am listening to the beautiful songs of some of my favorite birds, and new ones are coming to join in as time goes by. They are all so different, some are like liquid whistling, some are like sighing breathing, some are just kind of chirpy. Some are actually funny, but they are all incredibly enjoyable, incredibly delightful.

I love listening to these musicians of nature, because they sing for the best reason there is; because they must. They are pure, and I come here to soak in their purity. It wasn’t long before I had to unzip my guitar from my new “go to the woods to practice bag”, and offer some sounds from the human world to my bird friends. I must say that even though I felt absolutely inspired as I played, I doubted my bird friends really enjoyed my music as much as I enjoyed theirs. I thought to myself “I doubt they are having a spiritual experience, but I hope at least they find these strange sounds coming from this strange box at least as interesting as I find their sounds.”

And, I pretended they did.

I thank God and everybody else that I get to spend every day doing what I love the best, doing what I would be doing if I died and went to heaven, which I often feel I have. But it wasn’t always so, and no matter how demanding life became, I never forgot to go back to the place I am in right now. I call it my “alone place”.

Your Alone Place: The Best Place To Play Guitar

Everyone has an alone place. It’s where you really are, all the time, whether you know it or not. Usually, we can’t feel this place, because we are too distracted by the world, which has us convinced that IT is reality.

When you are in your alone place, there is no other voice in your head except your own true voice. It is always a voice of love and encouragement, it is always telling you what you need to hear. If you hear other voices, voices you have acquired over the years, voices that say hurtful things to you, then you are not in your alone place. You have become trapped in someone else’s “outland”. You have become trapped in someone else’s prison.

If you hear hurtful voices criticizing and demeaning you when you practice and things are not going well, telling you that you don’t measure up, and worse, never will, realize that this is someone else’s voice. You have accepted it and made it your own, but it is not yours really. It is not the voice you followed when you first picked up the guitar. Find that voice again, and purify yourself.

When you are in your alone place, you play for the same reason the birds sing. And it is pure, un-self-conscious joy. The birds really don’t care what I or the other birds think about their singing, their music. They are simply in their bliss, being their nature.

Make sure you go to your alone place, especially, and if at no other time, when you play the guitar. Because you play the guitar, or want to, you have a special entrance pass. When you are in your alone place, you will be playing for no other reason than to play, the same as those birds up in the trees. You will not be practicing or playing because you want to be somebody or something. If that is your motivation, you will be nothing and nobody.

Rather, when you are in your alone place, you will be practicing and playing because you want to practice and play, because you want to be the instrument that plays the instrument that makes the beautiful sounds. 

Of course, you will at the same time be somebody and something, but that takes care of itself. “Who” you are may be mildly interesting and enjoyable, but it can’t compare to “what” you are when you are playing the guitar and making music.

The Alone Place is always open and admission is free. Right now, I got here by going into the forest, one of the best and most powerful ways. But sometimes I go there by going into a room, closing the door, lighting some candles, and playing. When I play for other people, my goal is to be entirely alone, so that, through the music, I can meet everyone else in their alone place.

If you stay in your alone place, you will be pure, and your relationship to what you are doing will be pure, and because it is pure, it will grow. If you can be in your alone place when you practice and play, you will connect with your own power and inspiration, and what you need you will find.

Jamie Andreas

Mar 28

Practicing One Thing Is Practicing Everything!

By Jamie Andreas | How To Practice Guitar

If you know how to learn one thing really well on guitar, you know how to learn anything. If you cannot learn one thing well, you cannot learn anything well. Correct practice for guitar changes everything!

 Anyone who knows how to get really good on guitar knows that the most important thing is to practice new movements SLOWLY. Whatever you think this means, and however slow you think slow practice is, make it ten times slower!

 "The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar" teaches you what slow practice really means, and how to use it to achieve excellence on guitar. As we begin to practice correctly, we soon realize that every time we practice something, we are not just learning that particular set of movements, we are actually improving all our playing. The essence of the movements of the particular passage of music we are working will show up in other music we are playing.

 If you work correctly on that scale passage from one song or piece you are working on, you will see all your scale work improve. You will find yourself playing an old song that you haven't even practiced for awhile, and discover that it has improved, even though you have not played or practiced it for a year. 

Yes, it improved because of the correct practice you did on the other song. That is one of the magical benefits of correct practice on guitar. 

When we practice correctly, we are not just improving our fingers, we are improving our entire playing mechanism, arms, shoulders, in fact, our control over our whole body while playing. 

 Please realize this. If you can’t play one scale correctly and cleanly, then, you can’t play ANY scale correctly and cleanly. So, if this is the way it is for you, there isn’t much use, from the point of view of technique, to practicing a ton of scales. It would be a much better use of your time to pick one scale and examine it minutely, and practice it correctly and intensely until you begin to get it clean. Then, you will see ALL your scales improve.

This is the meaning of “practicing one thing is practicing everything”. Correct practice opens the door, slowly, one inch at a time to the world of music you want to play. Please realize that the opposite is true as well. Bad practice closes the door, slowly, one inch at a time, to the world of music you want to play.

Mar 09

Practice Organization – The 4 Vital Areas

By Jamie Andreas | How To Practice Guitar

practice organization

Organization Is Power  

If you are the type of person who is able to be organized about the things you really care about, then you posses an ability just as powerful as "natural talent", when it comes to being successful with learning, and continually growing as a guitarist and musician.  

Organization is Power. I realized this clearly one time while cleaning out a kitchen drawer, the kind that becomes a catch-all for all kinds of stuff. I found so many things in there that were very useful, or could be, if I knew they were there. But because of lack of organization, I didn’t even know I had them, so they were useless to me. In other words, my lack of organization had decreased my power. ​Ergo, ​organization Is power. 

Organization is a Form of Attention and Awareness 

 The most fundamental Principle of Correct Practice On Guitar is: "Your aware, thinking mind is your primary practice tool." Awareness is developed by the use of Attention. Lack of awareness is caused by lack of attention. Dis-organization is caused by a lack of Attention to the "over-allness" of a situation, for us, to our playing and practicing. 

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Feb 04

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and Guitar

By Jamie Andreas | Uncategorized

Unfortunately, many guitar students, especially adults, find themselves developing pain in various parts of the body due to practicing guitar. The good news is that this situation is completely avoidable, and also easy to reverse. In order to do so, we must understand where this "repetitive strain injury" as it is called, is coming from.

It is not coming from the fact that you are repeating something over and over. It is coming from the fact that you are repeating actions that are fundamentally unbalanced, and this imbalance places strain upon delicate muscles in the hand, upper body and lower back. When we practice and play in this state of imbalance, pain is inevitable.

Where Guitar Pain Begins

Pain in playing guitar begins with how you hold the guitar when you practice. This is something I have to fix with virtually every student who comes to me complaining of pain. If we are not sitting and holding the guitar correctly when we practice, it will be impossible to position and use the hands correctly, or to develop the muscles that operate the fingers. It will also be impossible to be truly relaxed and flowing in our playing.

When we play, we can sit, stand, or hold the guitar any way we want, or I should say any way that works, that enables us to get our notes. But when we practice, we must be in a balanced and ergonomic relationship to the guitar. This is because practicing is different than playing, practicing is where we train our muscles to be able to do new things, so they will be able to them when we play.

To learn about the best sitting position for practice, regardless of what style you play or what kind of guitar you have, see "How To Sit With the Guitar For Practice".

How Guitar Pain Continues

When our sitting position is unbalanced, and various muscles of the upper body are under strain simply trying to hold the guitar steady, it becomes impossible to position the hands and fingers in a way that allows for their careful and gradual development. This begins a series of problems in both right and left hands. This video will explain the many problems that we will have if our hands and fingers are not properly developed for the left hand. See "The 4 Diseases of the Left Hand on Guitar".

If our sitting postion is corrected, and we develop our left hand correctly for operating on the guitar, your pains will diminish, and disappear.

“The Principles” has cured the pains of guitar players around the world! They WILL get rid of your guitar pain, and playing problems....

The Principles of Correct Practice for Guitar 

"""Being able to operate a guitar probably would not have been possible without the Principles. The challenge of holding the guitar and making notes was difficult, painful, and therefore seemed like an insurmountable challenge."
- Allen Francom, Texas

"Hi Jamie. I recently ordered your ‘principles- DVD’. It is truly amazing! I have played both the classical and the electric guitar a coulpe of years. My muscles developed tensions, resulting in growing pain. Then someone told me that correct playing should be done through relaxation, but there was one problem. I couldn’t find anyone telling me HOW that should be accomplished! Thank you for that!"

- Annica from Sweden

"Most people might think that after playing guitar for 20 years, I’d be able to spot “trouble” areas... easily. Not so! After reading Chapter One, I discovered that I was experiencing a significant amount of pain when playing certain passages. After taking a close look at my playing, I discovered something that I learned 18 years ago was causing me all kinds of grief “today”.
- Chris S

“ I had no consistency in my performance. And at higher tempos, I was experiencing pain during practice. Your book (“The Principles”) has made me understand “why”. Until I tried your principles, I never knew how much tension I had."
- Brian

guitar struggle
Jan 20

Why People Struggle To Learn Guitar

By Jamie Andreas | Uncategorized

Very likely, you’ve already seen many guitar lessons and methods, and perhaps have had a teacher or two. Why have none of these resources given you what you need to build this first level of success on guitar?

Knowing the answer to this question is vital, because it is going to show you what is missing from all those wonderful guitar lessons you are trying to learn from. Whether you are beginning, or recovering, you need to know these things so that you can avoid these pitfalls, and travel firmly on the path to real guitar success that I will show you.

Watch this short video and you will get a good understanding of why the guitar instruction you have had so far has not given you the essential First Level of Success On Guitar!

If you want to build the essential FIRST LEVEL OF GUITAR SUCCESS

You will find everything you need to know, and everything you need to do in

"The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar"

The ONLY guitar training method that sets you up for SUCCESS, instead of failure!

This package is best if you are beginning to learn guitar.

The "Principles" book & DVD will show you exactly what you need to know and do to train your fingers for relaxation & control, and get solid results from every practice session.


"First Chords & Songs" to teach any beginner their first chords PERFECTLY!

This package is best if you can already play but are stuck in your progress.

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