Hello and welcome to Magick Month! For the entire month of October The Guitar Witch will be posting a new tip or challenge to help your creativity flourish and pulse with all the energy and life it deserves! You can find previous days here. Today we will be talking about Steve Vai’s Single Note Meditation.
Steve Vai’s Single Note Meditation
The Single Note Meditation is a guitar meditation technique that I picked up from the legendary virtuoso Steve Vai.
Steve Vai had a huge influence on my philosophy about creativity as force of the divine speaking and moving through you. Plus, the guy’s work ethic is absolutely incredible, working 8 hours a day on music (his mentor, and one of my favourite composers ever, Frank Zappa, famously worked 12). While my hands and brain do not have that type of fortitude, at least at this point in my life, that type of dedication is something that should give us pause when we wonder why maybe our own projects and skills aren’t where we’d want them to be. It’s rarely a question of inborn talent, and regardless of what we are born with, it takes thousands of hours of work to refine and express those skills.
And its worth it. If you’ve ever seen Steve Vai live, he is an absolute wizard!
You can find a bunch of his mini lessons here. I HIGHLY recommend doing just about everything he says as far as guitar work.
Today we will be talking about focusing on a mere atom of music – a single note.
The Single Note Meditation
The main idea is to play a single note, and only that note, for a prolonged period of time.
You can add vibrato to the note, bend it, play it softly or slam it, use fingerpicking or a pick, whatever you can think of, but do not take your hand off of that single note. Focus on how it feels, how it sounds. Do whatever thou will to it, but do not take that hand off the fretboard.
You could conceivably do this same exercise using your voice or another instrument. I think it would be tricky for a piano player using a keyboard, unless it is very responsive with touch sensitivity. A real piano would be a bit easier, and you could use the pedals to alter the tones a bit.
Regardless of what instrument you use, find a single note and just stay with it.
The idea is to focus on the type of sound you are making, really feeling how your muscles effect the quality of sound that is coming out. The longer you are sitting with this single note, the less distracted you will be by melody and harmony, scale shapes, etc., and just able to focus on the qualities and details of the sound itself.
The idea is to keep pulling the mind away from distractions the same way we do while meditating. You may think “this is stupid”, “I forgot to do that thing”, “I’m hungry”, and on and on and on. And despite those thoughts, you will just come back to the note.
How long to go for
I would say, when first starting this exercise, start with only a minute or two. However, once you really get into it, you’d be amazed at how much nuance there is to perceive. 10 and then 20 minutes can fly by. He suggests to work all the way to 60 minutes (I haven’t made it there myself but will get back on that train starting today).
The duration isn’t as important as the focus itself. Work up to staying longer and longer and the benefits will match your endurance.
When we focus on purposely limiting what we are doing on the fretboard, we are able to concentrate on different things than we normally would. Meditating on a single note can add a new dimension to ourselves as writers and players, opening ourselves up to that ethereal quality that we yearn for both as musicians and as listeners.
If you have any questions do not hesitate to comment below.
Thanks for reading!
~ Blessed Be and Happy Creating ~
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