I have trouble playing extended lines. My mind seems only to be able to comprehend or plan a few notes at a time, and when I try to play anything which is isn't simply up and down a scale, I find myself being limited to only a few notes at a time (this is in the context of improvisation). I have heard from one or two sources that one of the tricks to playing longer lines lies in learning a multitude of short licks and then piecing them together, but I anticipate that my brain would not work fast enough for me to connect them on the fly in different combinations and variations. In fact, I find myself astounded at how musicians in general can think so far ahead of what they play.
Is it really a matter of practicing these small licks, putting them together, playing them over some music?
I guess indirectly I'm also asking, can the speed at which the mind thinks about and anticipates the music be improved? Is there anyone out there who used to process their playing slowly, and after however much practice, is now able to think ahead or think more quickly? And if so, what is it that improves this?
As always, any replies are much appreciated!