The Secret To Effective Guitar Practice
Welcome to this edition of Fingerstyle Monthly. This month I'd like to share with you what I've learned about practicing the guitar.
For starters, there's where you practice.
It's always best to set up an area in your house that is only for guitar practice. I'm fortunate in having a spare bedroom that I can use as an office/studio space.
If your space is limited, set up an area of a room for a practice space.
An "official" practice area is where you'll have your practice tools. These are things like a chair, music stand, guitar tuner, and metronome.
If you use electonic instructional material you'll need to be near a computer, DVD player, etc...
The idea is that since you've got an area set up, practice is just a matter of going to that area, tuning up and beginning practice.
When you get to your practice space, what do you practice? For many players, this seems to be the biggest question of all. The answer to that question varies, of course.
Basically, it comes down to what you know and what you want to know.
In my experience, and opinion, there are certain things that all players should know. These things all involve how music is organized and how the fingerboard is organized.
Once you know this core information, it's a matter of applying it to songs that you want to play.
The other side of the coin is having the physical ability to put your knowledge into action. This is where playing exercises and drills comes in.
It's kind of like learning the basics of driving a car before you can actually drive somewhere in it.
After you can get around on the guitar pretty well, you can start learning songs. The song becomes the "car" that you're operating.
Okay, you've got your practice space and you know what you need to work on. What's next?
I think that it's always a good idea to warm up first. I always begin my practice sessions by slowly playing something that I already know.
Once I'm warmed up, I'll begin working on the topic of the days practice session. It may be a new song, a lick in a song, or an exercise.
Whatever you're working on, play it slowly enough to play it right. When we practice, we're training ourselves.
If you fumble through a section of a song every time that you play it, you're training yourself. Unfortunately, you're training yourself to play it wrong.
Slow down enough to play it right. Speed follows execution.
How long should you practice? That depends on your individual schedule. At least 30 minutes a day, five days a week will show some results for most people.
That's also a schedule that most people can follow. Guitar practice or a rerun of Seinfeld? I hope that you'll choose to practice.
Of course, an hour of structured practice a day is better than a 1/2 hour.
I know that day-to-day life can mess up your schedule. It happens to me , too. We can just try to do our best to stick to it.
The REAL Secret
Now we get to what is the most important factor. Drum roll, please!
The true secret to practicing is paying attention to WHAT you're doing, WHEN you're doing it.
Playing music is about making a deliberate sound. Making the sound that you want to make, when you want to make it. To do that, you have to deliberately train yourself to do it.
You train yourself to make these deliberate sounds by intently focusing on what you're doing, when you're doing it.
Self observation, I guess you could call it.
That's it. Have a designated practice space. Have a specified length of time to practice. Know what you need to learn, and pay attention while you practice.
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See you next month!
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