There is probably a huge list of types of physical talents that could be discussed. I will try to keep this chapter to the obvious gifts and learned abilities as they relate to playing a musical instrument and especially the guitar. Some people seem to have a musical touch. Everything they do is with a finesse and loving touch that is hard to verbalize. I noticed this at a young age when a childhood friend used to play his guitar when I was over. Invariable I was slobbering and anesthetized to the point of sleep or even meditation. His touch and the sound of the pick dragging across the strings would put my mind in a state of absolute ecstasy. He wasn’t that good of a player but what he did was absolutely music at the point of touching the instrument. Since then I will have students with this ability and I find myself making them do certain exercises longer than usual because of the tranquilizing effect of their touch on the guitar. Surely it is a combination of the grip on the pick, the instrument itself and the way the pick can skim over the top of the string instead of nervously and anxiously digging in to pluck. There is some connection to this and the sound of baseball cards in bicycle spokes. This is one of many picking techniques that can not be taught easily if at all that make one player superior to another without regard to playing content just touch. Some people can make one note music and others will not make music in their lives.
Muting and making sure that certain notes do not bleed into others is an ability that I can harp on forever with some to no avail. Some say they can’t tell that they are doing it and others do it naturally and don’t even know that they are. When I point it out to some, they will become so aware of it that it wrecks some other thing they did well so I often keep my mouth shut.
One thing I must mention is THE ZONE. It is difficult to tell whether it is a physical or mental ability. Surely both simultaneously. THE ZONE is a place where the mind and body are so attuned to their environment that they seem to become one with it. It seems that it is impossible to tell where one ends and they other begins.
I have experienced this myself but it is rare and can not be turned on or off.
Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Larry Bird are three that I have heard mention this “place” that they get and how they seem to have some control over the physical realm beyond their own bodies. The basketball leaves Michael Jordans’ hand and he seems to be able to make it change it’s direction ever so slightly after letting go.
It is very interesting to me how a game such as basketball can be going so well for one side and for no apparent reason switch to the opposite side. One night the Detroit Pistons will trounce the Indiana Pacers by 30 points and another it will be reversed. Some guys make a living keeping stats to determine what causes this link of the collective consciousness and some have been made. It is obvious by teams home court records that the 6th man (home fans)is helping too. It seems that possibly the collective desires of a crowd that is somewhat in “THE ZONE” are actually playing too. This absolutely happens in music and I could go on, but the point is made.
Some students have more ability to use their “MINDS’ EYE” than others. Good players do not look at the guitar at all. They are seeing their actions on the video screens of the mind and sometime this seems to be faster and maybe more accurate that physical vision. Often times I will be staring by habit at my instrument and I realize that I am looking at the future through my “MINDS’ EYE” to determine what to do next. This is a huge element of improvisation. You must plan ahead or by the time reality gets there it is too late. The brain activity of an improvising master has been likened to that of a fighter pilot in combat. Fortunately the guitarists life is not at stake, but try to tell him that.