20 Aug 2012

Practice Hints and Tips

How we practice our guitar is about as individual and unique as we are ourselves, there are however some practical guidelines that will make us more productive and progressive with our time.

Firstly let us consider some quotes from a few famous musicians:

If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.” ‡ Jascha Heiffetz – World Renowned Violinist ‡

“Playing scales is like a boxer skipping rope or punching a bag. It’s not the thing in itself it’s preparatory to the activity” ‡ Barney Kessel – jazz Guitarist ‡

“It’s important to other musicians, but on records, fast picking doesn’t mean a thing. People want to hear melody and nice harmony.” ‡ Chet Atkins ‡

“Our musical minds know everything they have ever heard, while our hands know only what we’ve trained them to do” ‡ Chris Proctor – Fingerstyle Guitarist ‡

Contained within these quotes is a wealth of instruction from people who have been there, done that and got the T-shirt and from their mistakes we are going to learn the following points are a guide that when implemented will weed out the endless hours that guitarists seem to spend just doodling and playing the same things over and over.

  1. : Practice at a time that suits your schedule, never when you are tired this only leads to attention deficit and frustration. Personally I find the morning time the most productive.
  2. : Always warm up before practicing and stretch after warm up – consider any sporting trainer – this helps to alleviate the dead time experienced during initial playing, ever experience how you’re playing seems to magically improve after a little time playing?
  3. : Always pay attention to good technique and playing style – even if it means slowing things down – as we are training our fingers to do what we want them to do instilling good technique in all we do is critical.
  4. : Work slowly and deliberately through difficult pieces break them down into manageable sections instead of trying to play through the whole piece at once.
  5. : Isolate difficult sections and work on these until they are to the same standard as easier sections, refrain from practicing the easy part along with the difficult part as this will only improve the sections disproportionally.
  6. : When learning a new piece scan through it firstly applying whatever theory we have at our disposal i.e. what key is it in, what sections are repeated, highlight what you may find difficult, what scale or chord sequence does it follow, the list here is endless and will increase as your musical knowledge does.
  7. : Keep a diary of your progress recording where and what level you are up to in your playing, highlight difficulties you may be having and make a plan of attack to overcoming these. E.g. what techniques you need to study hammer- on’s, pull-off’s, slides or bends etc.
  8. : Don’t get frustrated with difficult passages view as the means and bridge to your progression, spend an allotted time on these and then move on or take a break or even a sleep and come back to them the next day, our brains process the day’s tasks and information when we sleep.
  9. : Avoid spending to long doodling and playing the same things over and over of course we need to enjoy what we play but set an allotted time for this and stick to it.
  10. : Try and practice at least once a day musical practice cannot be crammed and it is better to practice a little each day than a whole lot on one day. Be consistent!