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The truth about beginning to play guitar and getting your eyes off of your hands when you are practicing

Does your head whip back and forth between looking at your right hand, then looking at the left, then up at the piece of music your working on and then back again?
Everybody wants to become free of having to rely on their eyes so that they can focus on the music they are learning but when does that happen? How long will it take? In this article, you will find help on how to break free of this.
You are a beginner, remember to relax and remind yourself that everybody starts here. There is a lot to do when you are first starting out navigating the fretboard can be tricky at times so you should start by watching your hands and just get a feel for the exercise or piece you are working on.
To get the fastest progress towards being able to play independently of your eyes, I recommend that you choose an exercise or song that use positional playing. Positional playing is when you are in a small selected number of frets for the entire piece and you allocate specific fingers on your fretting hand to specific frets. This allows your fingers to get familiar with the feel and space of the fret positions.
For this example, I am going to show you two of the most common positions, the open position and the fifth position.
Over time you will develop what is known as muscle memory, which is when your fingers will instinctively know where to go and voila! You will be set free of having to stare at your left hand.

Open position

In this position the following frets should be played with the respective finger only
1 = Index (pointer finger)
2 = Middle 
3 = Ring
4 = Pinky
Below are 8 exercises that use the open position, play one exercise repeatedly until you are comfortable. Then try to do it without looking at your left hand, you may need to look at your right hand from time to time, that is fine. Remember that over time, the right hand will also build a memory for where the strings are.

Fifth Position

When you are playing in a position that is not open. The number of the position is where your index finger will play. In this case the index finger will play fret five. Here are the frets with their respective fingers;

5 = Index
6 = Middle
7 = Ring
8 = Pinky
When you are comfortable enough to play these exercises without the need to look at your hands, give yourself an extra challenge and play all the exercises back to back without stopping from start to finish.

Right Hand Exercises
You can take this idea further and apply positional playing to more strings, I have kept the exercises to two strings in this article so that you can focus most of your attentions on what the left hand is doing. Once you have the required muscle memory to be independent of watching you left hand you can make the switch to focusing on right hand exercises such as this.

When you can do both the left hand and the right-hand exercises without staring at your hands you can then start to have some real fun with your guitar. Synchronizing the two hands will take some work if you don’t want to look down at your hands but remember, even professional guitarists will watch their instruments when there is a fast or challenging run of notes.
Right now, as a beginner guitarist, the situation for you is the same. You will have to look at your hands because it is challenging but it will get easier and over time you will find that the need to look down will occur less and less and you will feel great about your playing.

About The Author

Daniel Bainbridge is a professional teacher that provides beginner guitar lessons in Kelmscott, Western Australia. He has helped dozens of beginners, some of which now write and perform their own music. If you are a beginner living in Western Australia and you want to play guitar with confidence, contact Daniel for a free introductory guitar session and get on the path to becoming the guitarist you have always dreamed of.