I only recently stepped into this realm of “hearing” and “listening”. Use to stare at tab, now I’ve pretty much sworn it off and only occasional look at tabbed out licks.
I guess it was 2 years ago, I had ran my scale practices up and down the neck, knew the “CAGED System”, practiced arpeggios, learned theory along the way (besides for reading sheet music). I was getting nowhere close in being “creative”. Then I started practicing scales over actual songs to get the “timing” right. At some point I began to not have to “think” about friendly notes around me, my fingers knew them… I could finally becomes “creative”.
A big part of that to me is working out simple melodies on your instrument, be it in your head, on TV or on a slow song. This really helped with me being able to use my ear and say “next note higher” (or lower) that is in my head and I can see what note it is on the guitar, can call it by name, and this is all in my head. My left hand just moves to that note with rest of hand in proper position and the right hand hits the correct string…I can’t say that my hands, ear and mind are all thinking as one. But what I can say is that I’ve really slowed down time/the actual song in my head and can think of all kinds of things between the next note or passage.
200 BPM is starting to feel like 100 beats a minute…there is time enough to bake a cake in between those quarter notes as they come back around. My ear can tune into the rest of the group playing if I think I am getting lost or don’t know where I am at. I can focus my hearing back over and immediately know where we are in the progression and get back on it and think of ideas to throw out before we get there.
There is an amazing amount of thoughts and decisions to be made in between notes. I can think about my right hand and what it’s doing, my left hand and where is it/in what position, can lay my ear on the song and each instrument and hear their parts, can think of melody, and think of me singing it, all in between quarter note beats of a moderate speed
I woodshed a lot of melodies. I’m still slow at this but am gaining ground. I aspire to have never heard a song, hear the first verse then chorus, know enough about it at that point to then play pretty close to the melody.
Keep on practicing those simple melodies, they will pay off big time if you want to “jam” and improvise.