Two Guitar Lessons From... CONNOR MCDAVID? [NHL Star]

Tommaso Zillio

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mcdavid guitar lesson

If you haven’t already dismissed this article, thinking “learning about guitar from hockey? Hockey doesn’t even have strings!”…

…no, it doesn’t have strings, but there are a couple of things that we can learn from hockey players about practice and performance two important things both for athletes and musicians.

Let’s use the example of Connor McDavid. (from what I’ve been told, Connor is the best player in the world. Agree or disagree, all of these lessons are still the same)

There are many things to learn from Connor, but let’s narrow it down to 2:

Don’t Look Down

Connor never looks at the ice or at the puck. He has his eyes up so often that he’s probably spent less time looking at a hockey puck in his life than I have, and I’m an Italian immigrant!

If Connor can stickhandle around defenders like he can without looking, then you can play Smoke On The Water for the 600th time without looking, too :-)

How To Go Fast

Connor is known for being extremely fast and agile, but he isn’t so fast because he tries harder than the next guy, or because his legs are stronger.

He’s fast because he has perfected the technique, which allows him to use his speed without tensing or freezing up, or running out of energy after 5 seconds.

Most guitar players instead try to go fast by simply trying harder, or trying to overpower their technique.

Trying harder is NOT the answer to speed!! To go faster, we need to master the technique. Start slow, perfect the movements, stay relaxed, and stop trying so hard.

You’ll find all the details about them - and how to apply them to your daily practice - in the video below:

Of course, it’s also important to know WHAT to play. After all, even if you can play faster than Connor can skate, but you don’t know what you are doing, you are not going to sound that great, right? ;-)

But where do you start in knowing how to express yourself on the guitar? I recommend you start with this free eBook on how to express yourself with the pentatonic scale

Video transcription

Hello internet so nice to see you. When I came to Canada more than a decade ago, I knew next to nothing about hockey. I mean, I knew it existed. I knew it involves ice, stick, and there was a disconcerting lack of a ball in the game. I mean, I was used to soccer, there is no ball in this game… For us Italian, the game makes no sense.

But then I learned in time by talking about practically everybody. I mean, this is the argument or conversation here. I learned that hockey is a great source of ideas for us guitar players. Don’t believe me? Well follow me. And let’s see.

Let’s talk about Connor McDavid. Connor McDavid is hailed as one if not the best player in the game. You can agree with that, or disagree with that. Honestly, I wouldn’t know I get all my news about these from talking with my friends. So anyway, Connor has a number of things that he does that are great for us guitar player, let me take the first one.

Connor almost never looks at the ice. And he almost never looks at the puck. And he almost never looks at his own stick his eyes are up, which allows him to concentrate on the bigger picture, you may notice that he’s not looking at a defender stick. He’s looking at their eyes, which show him what they are going to do before they do it.

He is then letting his muscle memory take care of the technical element of stick handling. Of course, this is not improvised. I mean, come on. It’s Connor McDavid. The guy trained forever the technical elment of stick handling so that when he’s in the game, he doesn’t have to think about that. He doesn’t have to think what kind of movement his hands have to do to move the puck in any direction he wants.

Think about it for a moment. What is the first thing you see in a guitar player when they play on stage that they’re looking at the fretboard. So what can we do to be more like Connor McDavid?

Well, the first thing is this; when you are playing your guitar, stop worrying about technical details. Yes, yes, I know you’re thinking but if I don’t worry about technical details, how am I going to get better? But see, here’s the thing. When you are playing your guitar, you stop worrying about your technical details. When you are practicing your guitar, well, yes, that’s the moment to develop your muscle memory so that you don’t have to worry about those things later.

Okay, this way you can think about for instance, what other musicians on stage are playing and play off on them or engage with the audience or just simply relax and not think too much so that you can play better. The important thing here is that we distinguish very clearly between practicing and playing, exactly like Connor or every other player of any sport, distinguish very clearly between a game and the practice before the game.

So when you are practicing, yes, get down to the nitty gritty details. Control exactly your movement, do whatever you need to do, but when you play, learn to let it go. This is harder than looks, but just learn to let it go and concentrate on the bigger game. After all, like Beethoven said, a wrong note is immaterial. But a note play without passion is inexcusable.

And the first thing to do all that is guess what? Stop looking at that fretboard close your eyes look somewhere else stop looking at that fretboard guitar player learn from Connor McDavid, he’s not looking at his stick, and you should not look at your fretboard. Learn to feel your fretboard even when you practice. Don’t look at it or at least I’m looking at it all the time. Is there more we can learn from Connor McDavid? You betcha.

Connor is fast. Allegedly, he is the fastest player to ever play the game again. I wasn’t there with a timer to check, but that’s what they tell me. And honestly, I believe them.

As guitar players, we often want to go fast as well. Okay, it’s a different type of speed, but still. But watching Connor McDavid, you can see an interesting thing.

You can see that he isn’t gaining speed by simply trying harder than other players. I mean, he is trying harder probably, he is training harder. But you see that it is not just brute force strength, he isn’t pushing harder into the ice. It’s not that he has stronger legs than any other player to ever play the game. Or again, I didn’t check but it doesn’t look like.

The thing is he has mastered the technique of skating. And this lets him smoothly skate by any player in the league without needing to take a 10 minute break out of exhaustion after that without destroying his muscle or tensing up which makes it harder to stay fluid or agile. I mean, we guitar player wants to be fluid and agile too.

How many times you are trying to play something and you feel it you’re playing too slow. And what do you do? You try harder, you try to put in more energy into those fingers and Then what happens after a few seconds, your fingers lock up. Of course, you’re putting too much tension into them. So what do we do, we need to master the movements at a slow speed and make them repeatable, make sure you can do them free of tension and without locking up.

Okay? It’s important that we remember this because every time we practice, we have to consciously remind ourselves that we should not try harder, we should not put in more tension. We should always take away tension, sometimes you do this by playing slower, sometimes with other strategies. I’m not saying no.

But remember that every time you practice your guitar and you feel tension, that is a problem that you need to solve. Otherwise, it will never move fast. Otherwise, it will never be agile. And again, at this point, you can bail out and say, but I don’t want to play faster, Tomasso, I don’t want to be the fastest player in the league. Among guitar players.

Sure, you may not. But hey, can you really tell me that eliminating tension is a bad goal for you? Can you really tell me that versatility and agility is bad for you? You’re gonna get agile and versatile as guitar player. Only getting this under control with your fingers. So slow down, relax, relax, okay, playing guitar is fun. There is no danger to be body checked by anybody. Okay? So relax. Take it easy. And if you need any help, shoot me an email, and I’ll see what I can do for you.

And now just realize two things. First, I managed you to look at hockey footage for an entire YouTube video on guitar and two, you actually learn something out of that. So tell you what, turn off this video, turn off YouTube. Go and play. Go away. And until next time, enjoy


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