Mental Management

Mental Management

"How Is It Possible?"

Consider for a moment what we expect ourselves to do every time we play our steel guitar.

We must remember specific and varying fingering sequences, bar positioning and intentions of manipulation, control the pitch, know multiple positions of the chord being played, remember the chord sequence of the specific song being played and determine what pedal(s) and/or knee lever(s) to engage.  While playing we continually form an opinion of how we are sounding and attempt to make all corrections necessary.

To further complicate the playing process, consider the different song melodies, chord progressions and all the mathematical possibilities of each. And, let's not forget there is a tempo to consider which adds urgency of time and greatly contributes to the overall degree of difficulty.

In the end, how we think and how we play are verified by the sound coming from the amplifier--which is the culmination of all thought and physical participation.

Considering the enormous complexity of everything it takes to play, it's no wonder playing can overwhelm the mind.  It's also no wonder why a vast majority fall by the wayside and in doing so deprive themselves of the possibility and opportunity to experience the joys of playing.

Unfortunately some who lose their enthusiasm because of their frustration and being overwhelmed, may indeed have had the potential of being great players. Instead they unfortunately quit playing because they simply never found the specific procedure necessary to insure success.

Those who pursue logic know there HAS to be a way to engage and manage all these elements of playing. After all, we see and hear great musicians every day . . . so what's the secret?

To find the answer to mental management, we must ask ourselves the following question:

What is the specific process which allows a constant flow of mental and physical management of ALL playing procedures simultaneously, instantly and continuously?

The following is a four-step process which provides you exceptional ability.


First of all, the mind must be uplifted with enthusiasm, motivation, desire, passion and love for the instrument. If it has those attributes, it must then be introduced to an organizational plan. Without such a plan, the only option the mind has is that of vast and complex memorization, which is asking the mind to exceed its capability. As an example one does not attempt to memorize a book, yet because of the organization of the words a perception is provided which is the essence of the story.

There are organizational plans available today that will display the information required to play steel guitar.  There is a way to organize those plans so as to provide instant recall and subsequent execution similar to the way a story is remembered in a book although not memorized.


After the mind has organized the plan, it projects the proposed plan on the fretboard which then manifests itself visually.

Once the organized plan is projected on the fretboard by the eyes, the mind MUST preplan that which it is INTENDING to do, including bar placement, strings to be played and the pedal and knee lever involvement. All this must take place BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO PLAY!

This is a critical point in the entire playing process.  If one is not preplanning and visualizing the plan on the fretboard at least three seconds before attempting to play, the mind is in a deficit BEFORE even the first note is played.


The body is a servant of the mind therefore the hands do what they are told to do. Those who do not fully engage the mind simply listen to their hands play and essentially just chase sounds without organization. Doing this can become a lesson in futility and subsequently many will not continue to play.


While playing, the ears continuously and simultaneously validate the intent relative to the organizational plan AND the physical execution of the preplanned process.

The end result of all things is the sound coming from the amplifier. It is critical the sound must NOT interfere with the preplanning process which again is a minimum of three seconds ahead of what the ear is hearing.


The mind pre-plans, the eyes visualize and project, the hands execute, and the ears continually validate and correct on the fly by means of the subconscious. At the same time the conscious mind is observing the minimum three-second rule and continuously planning ahead until the song is completed.

An example is a baseball outfielder who, when the ball is hit in the air, just runs to the ball and the ball falls precisely in his glove. When he does this seemingly effortless task, that which he has just completed is actually a very complex calculation process of distance, wind, elevation, speed, trajectory, body control, etc. In addition to all those complex calculations, he must also keep his head in the strategy of the game so he knows what to do with the ball once itís caught.  He can easily and effortlessly accomplish this by simply watching the ball and preplanning the response.

Playing steel guitar can be likewise related. Our ball is the fretboard. Once the bar/fret relationship is established, the eyes must move to the next preplanned position while the ear monitors and corrects everything relative to the sound coming from the amplifier.

Each step of my theory contains many elements which have proven over the years that when followed, the complexity of playing steel guitar can be compared to something as innately simple as catching a fly ball. Adhering to the four-step sequence provides the perception of keeping it simple and allows the mind to perceive the entire playing process as being only ONE THING.  This is exactly that which the mind began searching for the very first time we sat down to a steel guitar.


Copyright (C) 2005 by Maurice "Reece" Anderson, all rights reserved.