How To Practice The Guitar Effectively And Efficiently?

The Dreaded Metronome

Practice is a word we musicians use all too often. It is the most important part of your progression and one of the hardest things to do well. In time you will develop your own way of practicing but in this section I thought I would pass on some advice to help your practice time become more effective and to help you avoid the pitfalls of so called ‘bad practice’.
1.    Repetition.
Nobody is born with the ability to play guitar. Despite how effortless it looks with some players, nobody finds it easy to start with. The key to learning any new skill is simply doing it over and over again.
Imagine for example that you’re trying to learn a tricky passage of music with lots of notes in quick succession. You may find during your first attempts that your fingers trip over each other and your brain gets tired faster than usual. This leads to a feeling of despondence and it is in these dark times that we’re often inclined to say a phrase such as “I’m never going to be able to do this!”

Do not fear. This is normal.

The problem is that these precise and complex muscle movements you are attempting to produce are quite alien to your body. Your brain is sending a signal to your finger muscles requesting that they move in a way they have never had to before. It’s Just like learning to walk or ride a bike for the first time. After a few falls and a couple of wobbles it gets easier. Your brain acclimatizes itself to the nature of the task and each repetition becomes more and more natural.

Repetition is key.

 
Play the passage slowly over and over again until you feel confident. By playing slowly to begin with you will develop control and dexterity and these skills will help you maintain precision at full speed. Always remember to have breaks in your practice and talk to your tutor if you are experiencing any problems or discomfort.

2.    Ten Minutes A Day

Ten minutes a day is all that is required to begin with. It is much more effective than an hour of rushed practice at the end of the week as most of that time is spent trying to remember everything from the previous lesson.

With ten minutes a day you will be surprised how quickly you progress and the topics you covered in the previous lesson will stay fresher in your mind. Use a metronome if you have one (there are some great metronome apps so just ask your tutor) Start at a slow speed and build it up. These things take time so don’t rush.
3.    Structure
In time you will build on those ten little minutes. You might have a favourite warm up that you like to play. Then you might practice some scales and finish it off by playing through a new piece you’re working on. This is called a practice routine and taking the time to write one can be very effective. Keep returning to your old pieces so you don’t forget them.
If you are struggling with something new you should try to break it down. Don’t look at the whole piece, as it will more than likely overwhelm you. Concentrate on one bar or one chord. Practice the chord changes so there are no gaps in your playing. Imagine you are auditioning to join the band and ask yourself ‘is this at a performance standard?’ You may feel you know a piece but is it going to get people tapping their feet when you play it?
4.    Have Fun
This is supposed to be a hobby after all so make sure you’re enjoying yourself. Play your favourite song or jam along to some backing tracks on Youtube. Get a friend who also plays to join you or try writing a song. Listen to some new music or get on the Internet and explore a new style of playing.  All these things are forms of practice and though they might not help you excel as fast as more formal structured practice they will enhance your musicianship and give you enormous amounts of enjoyment in the process.“You’re always learning about this thing every time you pick it up” – Keith RichardsWhen you start to understand how you learn as an individual you will start to get the most out of your practice. It does take time and a bit of effort but nothing worth doing is easy.
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