Did you know that you can practice the harmonica without even touching a harmonica?
HAH? Say WHAT? That doesn’t make sense, Luke.
But it’s true! And even though it’s true and I’m telling you that it’s true right now, you SITLL won’t do it. It’s just so hard for us to believe things that we can see, even when they’re verified by scientific research.
I first discovered it about a decade ago when I had a bad fever for a few days. I was REALLY wanting to practice music but felt SO terribly ill there was no way it could happen. However, while I laid in bed feeling all clammy and swollen up like a balloon, I found I could VISUALIZE my self playing and even HEAR (in my imagination) the sound of what I was playing.
When the fever finally broke and I was able to play again, I found that I was able to play the passages better than I had been able to before I got sick! And I had never even touched by instrument!
If you’ve got a passion to improve at playing harmonica, there may be times when you’d like to play, but you can’t play (i.e., "I would play right now, but then the dog would howl, and that would make my wife wakeup, and then I’d have to sleep on the couch’ - just one example that pops into my noggin.)
I mean, don’t get me wrong. The harmonica is the most portable instrument on the planet that exists outside of our bodies, and we can practice it a lot of places other people can’t practice their instruments. YO! We are LUCKY! (moment of silence to celebrate that we play the coolest instrument on the planet.)
BUT, even in times where you can’t play, you can still move forward if you want to. Once you have learned any new technique, scale, riff, lick, or song, all you have to do is simply IMAGINE yourself doing it. Imagine yourself having a blast, and playing it *perfectly.*See how clearly you can really hear the music you are making in your imaginary harmonica session, and try to really feel the feelings of doing the techniques needed to accomplish it. And always imagine yourself doing it with EASE.
There’s been a number of studies in the world of sports since the 1980’s that have scientifically verified how powerfully visualization can effect REAL RESULTS. In some studies the visualization test subjects did almost as well as the subjects who actually did the physical practicing, and in some cases the visualization test subjects did EVEN BETTER!
But, like I said before, I’d bet that you won’t do it. Why? I think it just seems too good to be true. And, I’m guilty of this. In fact, yesterday I had the idea to write this post, and then, last night I was staying away from home, and I couldn’t sleep, and guess what I found myself thinking? “I wish I had my instrument so that I could practice!!!” I realized the irony and had to laugh out loud HAH?
The reality is that I practice things in my mind all the time. You might find sometimes (like I did last night! lol) that it actually feels more difficult to practice away from the instrument. It almost feels like it takes more energy? But if you can really visualize it, you’re gonna find it’s easier for you to do it when you get back to your instrument. It’s almost like…magic.
I saw an interview with the great jazz and fusion bass player Jaco Pastorious, who every electric bass player probably agrees revolutionized the instrument (he played with Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, and Pat Metheny, in addition to making his own albums.) In the interview, Jaco said that at that time in his live he was so busy, he had to do ALL of his practicing in his head!
Anyway, the next time you can’t fall asleep, or are stuck standing in a line, I hope you will visualize something you were trying to do on the harmonica recently. See how clearly you can see it, feel it, and hear it in your mind’s eye. And LMK if you think it helped!