The 5 Absolutely Indisputable Essentials Of Guitar Practice

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1) Never Play Alone

The biggest thing slowing my students’ progress is that when they make a mistake, they stop playing, attempt to correct it, pause, then get it right and move on.  The problem being that their imaginary band-mates are now 12 bars ahead, in the outro.  It’s natural to do this, but ultimately you’re only improving at playing with mistakes, extra time and pauses.  It’s vital to view a song or piece as an entity of its own, beginning here and ending there.  If you miss a bar, make a mistake, or snap a string – You can’t bend time mid-song, you adhere to the song, not vice-versa.  So ensure you’re always playing with something keeping you on track.  The song, backing track, a metronome, a friend, whatever – Just something you have to keep up with.  Think bigger than just your part. The show must go on!

2) Replicate The Conditions

The conditions you’re practicing for, that is.  Maybe it’s a concert, exam, audition, or a rehearsal.  The point is – If it’s going to involve playing standing up, singing backup vocals, re-tuning or de-tuning between songs, playing in the dark and scissor kicking around the room, practice it!  Equally, if you’re studying grades, ensure you sometimes practice in exam conditions.  If you’re going to an audition, nail the little details in advance and be sure you know the material inside out so your competence and professionalism shine through.

3)  Little And Often

10 minutes a day for 6 days improves your playing more than 1 hour on a Saturday.  Repetition helps your brain process and establishes muscle memory.  Obviously 3 hours straight Guitar is hardly bad for your playing, but this should be something you do when time flies, without you realizing, playing your repertoire for fun.  Don’t practice like this.  Regular (ideally daily) short-mid length sessions create fast, tangible progress.  Too much can leave you lethargic, frustrated and not processing.  As you advance, an hour or two is fine (with regular short breaks) but generally, between 10-45 minutes daily, or as frequently as possible is recommended.

4)  Practice What You Can’t Play

It’s easy to finish 15 minutes of practice and feel it’s been a great session.  But what were you playing?  A song you mastered 3 months ago, with a backing track, twice, complete with random noodling?  Here we must separate the concepts of “Learning” and “Playing”.  In your dedicated, daily practice you develop what you can’t play yet – Practicing challenging things, working on the technical, rhythmic, dexterity and speed elements.  This is the “Learning” part.  The “Playing” part happens whenever you like, for however long you like.  It’s playing purely for fun – Your existing repertoire, noodling, jamming.  Too much “Learning” equals no fun.  Too much “Playing” equals no progress.  It’s a balancing act!

5)  Finish On A High

This doesn’t just apply to Guitar, but to any repeated task.  You’ll have encountered it at work/school/home already.  If you finish a session excited about the project, knowing the next step, keen to return to it, you’ll return excited and knowledgeable.  If you finish a session frustrated and confused, then if you return at all, your first step will be to try to work through the errors and confusion of last time, rather than launching enthusiastically into more progress.  In between times, you want to be walking round desperate to get back to your Guitar.  The way to ensure this is to always finish on a high.  Complete the task, reach a certain milestone, and then knowing what you need to do next, stop!

Guest Post by Alex Bruce

Alex is a Guitarist, Guitar Teacher and Writer with 15 years experience. He runs Bruce Music – A London-based Guitar and Piano school.

Description Of Bruce Music

Bruce Music is a Guitar & Piano school based in London, UK.  They are a community of young, active working musicians who visit students all over the city to provide expert Guitar and Piano tuition.

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