What Is Practice? And What Makes It Effective?
Posted: February 11th, 2013 by Ashley Saunders
How to effective practice guitar is a big topic, so I aim to break it down into small chunks. So expect to see a few different posts on practice in the next few weeks.
So let’s deal with some common misconceptions and get an overview of what guitar practice is.
The first, classic misconception is that guitar or any type of practice should be boring, Wrong! If it’s boring, you’re focusing on the wrong stuff or not trying to make it fun. For example instead of trying to learn a new set of chords, learn a song (that you like) with those chords in it. Practice that instead.
Chances are you’ll move onto a song at some point, so why not start there? Once you have learnt a new scale, write a solo or song based on the scale. Don’t just practise it mindlessly over and over again.
Just The Exercise
The second misconception is that guitar practice should be exercise based. Sure, some should be, but most of your practice should help to increase your ability as a musician. Of course if you’re struggling with a chord change, isolate it and get the two chords flowing together, in time and in tune. But do so with the aim of using them in the song.
Fun Begins After Practice
Once practiced guitar, then the fun begins. You can then play music! Please, don’t see exercises as a necessary evil which should be carried out at breakneck speed without any consideration to whether you’re doing it correctly! But as a way to get to being able to get an element of guitar playing together in order to be able to use it!
Effective Guitar Practice
So what is effective guitar practice? It’s focusing on elements you plan to use at some point so you can produce inspiring harmonies and great melodies.
For example, if you learn an E minor 9 chord and then go hunting for some more chords around the fretboard. And find another three more you can and do use, then that’s what I call effective practice. You have increased your knowledge and your ability to improvise. Well worth the time spent doing this.
Likewise, working on music theory is great as long as you are relating it to a piece of music. If you’re just trying to accumulate knowledge for no purpose (or to grow your ego), then maybe you need to rethink your reason for playing guitar!
My key and what I’ll tell anyone who’d listen is “Practise what you want to be able to do, so that you can translate what’s in your head into your hands”. Plus if you do, you’ll feel more confidence and play guitar better!
That’s All well and good, but is there a way to speed up progress and make even better use of practice time?
Yes, there is! Goal setting. Finding, measuring and attaining goals.
If you have a goals programme built around a long term plan with measurements and rewards along the way, you’re more likely to keep going. At this point you may be thinking ‘but I’m only learning for fun or can’t do regular practice sessions because of other commitments’.
Even so, you could see vast improvement over the next month if you put aside 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. I’m talking about giving your full attention in that time to what you are learning. So, turn off your phone, computer and anything else that would encourage you to get distracted, even if only for a few seconds.
If you really focus your attention on mastering one or two items over this time and measure yourself through the process you will see results.
What do I mean by measuring? Well, a great way to analyse progress is to record yourself. You don’t need state-of-the-art equipment. It just needs to give you an accurate picture of where you’re at. Even if all you want to achieve is to learn how to play scales better.
Record yourself at day one – include all the mistakes you make – yes, warts and all. Then at the end of the first week, record yourself again and save it. If you worked hard enough you’ll hear a difference on playback and the improvement should e more noticeable the longer you keep on doing this compared to your initial recording.
It’s often a lack of focus, commitment and dedicated time that stops people reaching the next level in their playing. So determine not to follow the crowd and enjoy as you progress!