Your kinesthetic sense (the sense that allows you to be aware of your touch (pressure), position, tension, and movement), helps you become keenly aware of the tension your muscles produce while you play. Without a well-developed kinesthetic sense, it will be difficult to achieve the balance of tension and relaxation that will ultimately lead to a better performance.
Many classical guitarists, particularly those in beginning and intermediate levels, have little awareness of their bodies. For example, classical guitar students focus so intently on reading the musical notes that they do not sense what their hands, fingers, and other parts of their body are doing. As a result, some parts of their body become tense, causing the student to suffer fatigue, even pain. Furthermore, the student’s anxiety about making mistakes often leads to tension, which in turn gives rise to the very errors the student feared in the first place.
With an increased awareness of your kinesthetic sense, you will learn how to play with minimum effort by merely watching and feeling your hands and fingers in a gentle, noncritical way. Allow your hands to make adjustments without too many commands from your conscious mind. Unfortunately, however, it is not possible to solve every problem that you encounter as you play by simply observing your fingers, allowing them to find their own way.
For a more comprehensive and analytical trouble-shooting approach, first analyze the problem. When you have located the cause of your difficulty, determine what technical approach will help you to overcome the obstacle. Next, allow your fingers to work naturally, using your newly-developed kinesthetic sense. Occasionally, play in front of a mirror, and observe how your body appears. If it appears too tense, take deep breaths, or use whatever relaxation technique works for you. If your body appears too sloppy, focus your attention on the job at hand. Sometimes a short break may clear your mind and sharpen your focus.
Combine both methods of problem solving, both the kinesthetic and the analytic, for a more fruitful practice session. By learning to engage more of your senses, you will become a better classical guitarist–and a better musician overall.
Emre Sabuncuoglu, one of the founders of the Los Angeles Guitar Academy Online, holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California’s prestigious Thornton School of Music. Emre’s warm style of relating to others helps him reach out to a diverse student population. He incorporates visual, kinesthetic, and auditory cues to accommodate each student’s distinctive learning style. LAGA also has studios throughout the greater Los Angeles area where students can learn from Emre in person.