Your fingers play what you are focussed on. But are you focussing on the right thing?
This is a common mistake that beginners and intermediate – advanced players make, but in very different ways.
When beginners are practising, they often feel that in order to play guitar “properly”, they have to do so without looking. I see this misunderstanding a lot. Where does it come from?
People quite often look at their favourite guitar players and want to play like them. Obvious, right? And that is awesome too. Those players are great inspirations to help people pick up and progress at the instrument (I know that my favourite players inspired me to take the guitar more seriously when I was younger). However, the problem comes in when the beginner guitar student expects to be able to play like their favourite players after only a couple of weeks of lessons.
I quite often see beginners trying to emulate their favourite players too early, trying to play something they are learning without looking – which is very counterproductive! Been able to play without looking is a by-product of mastering a skill. As a beginner, what you need to focus on is building up perfect repetitions. The more perfect repetitions you do in a row, the faster you learn (this is why you practice slowly). When you make incorrect repetitions of an exercise, you do not learn (incidentally, this is one factor behind why two people who practice for the same amount of time can get very different results in their ability level). The easiest way to build perfect repetitions is to look at what your hands are doing!
Keep watching your hands, you will be able to play without looking soon enough!
Intermediate – Advanced
Guitar players at this skill level also have a problem with where they are looking, but it manifests in a very different way. Players at this level work on more complex and advanced pieces, which can often involve a lot of position changes (where we move the fret hand to a different place on the neck, to allow us to hold down a different set of frets). The mistake that these players make is to look at where they are changing to AFTER they have made the change. What you should be doing is to look at where you want to move to BEFORE you make the change.
Doing this will help you improve your accuracy with changes a huge amount. Give it a go today!
Both of these techniques are just one of many strategies we use when trouble shooting problems that students have with their playing, and just one of many techniques that we will use to help you improve your playing, to transform you into the guitar player that you want to be.