Joseph gives us some suggestions on how we can revitalise our guitar practice time to help inspire and encourage.
Practice is necessary. We all know it. It is the only way to seriously progress your guitar playing. The classic phrase practice makes perfect comes to mind, but that’s only really true, if you are really practicing. By this I mean chord exercises, scales, complex phrases, as well as recapping on the elements you are already good at. However, this isn’t always easy, and it certainly isn’t always fun. If you have been hitting a dead end, it’s time to switch up your practice! Here are a few ways you could do this.
Practice Somewhere New
The problem we have here is monotony, and that is not just caused by practicing repetitive lines, but your whole practice regime. A simple way to modify your practice, which could potentially seriously change it up, is to practice somewhere NEW. You will find rooms have different acoustics, different vibes and you won’t have the associations of the same space.
Plan Your Practice Time Properly
You may already be doing this, and hopefully you are, but if not, this could be a game changer for you. Targets have long been used to increase motivation. We set ourselves New Year’s Resolutions so to motivate us to be a better version of ourselves, so why not set ourselves the equivalent when it comes to practicing guitar? Depending on how long you practice for, break the time down into smaller segments, and before you start, outline what you want to do in each segment. If you want to take this even further, set yourself monthly goals as well. You will be able to track your progress better, and this is a strong motivator!
For many of us, we may set aside time to practice for an hour or even 2, but longer practice doesn’t necessarily mean better practice. In the late 1980s, Francesco Cirilo developed a time management method named the Pomodoro Technique. This is a popular productivity tool used in business and writing, and works equally well for practice. If you have done the above and planned your practice, assign each task 25 minutes (these segments are called pomodoros), and tick them off as you go along. After the first 3, depending on how long you are practicing in total, take a 5-minute break. Make a quick drink, check what’s on TV, put some food in the oven, whatever! After the 4th pomodoro, have a longer break, 15-30 minutes long. Granted, this system won’t work for everyone, but it is certainly a good starting point in increasing your focus and productivity!
In every session, you need to be making sure to focus on some of the more repetitive stuff to improve on what you don’t already know, but you also need to have some fun playing. Make sure to plan some time in your practice to do something fun. This could be playing an old song of yours, or a crazy riff you definitely don’t need to know but get a buzz out of playing. This is good to put into play some of the stuff you’ve been practising, but also a good reminder of where you are on your musical journey. Of course you’re going to be unmotivated in your practice if it is only a reminder of what you can’t already do. However, be careful not to spend too long focussing on stuff you already know, but if you’ve planned your practice and stick to it, this shouldn’t be a problem!
Depending on if you’ve written down your practice plan, this may be easy, or harder to get into the groove of doing. Journaling is a key tool for efficient guitar practice. Writing down what you’re practicing, what you achieved and what you think you need to do next is a brilliant way of placing your smaller practice sessions into the bigger picture! You will then have written evidence of your improvement and that will certainly be motivating. You may also notice that you are not setting yourself hard enough targets because you are achieving everything much quicker than planned, in which case, push yourself!
What to Practice
Practicing guitar should touch on several key elements. These are melody, harmony, creativity, theory, repertoire, technique and aural training. You need to make sure that you are covering all these aspects, or you will find yourself stagnating. Naturally, you’ll feel down when you manage to slam a perfect song but ruin a solo section, simply because you forgot to train your creative voice. Or alternatively, what’s the point of a shredding solo if you haven’t looked at ear training or harmony and you are treading all over the band’s toes? Your planning and journal will help you to keep track of what you may be focussing on too much or what you’re missing out on.
In brief, efficient practice is the best practice. Don’t listen to the myth that the best practice 24 hours a day. They just know how to practice! In terms of what to practice, there are plenty of guides out there online that will help you choose what to focus on. Make sure you’re always seeking out the next step, and make sure you’re always pushing yourself.
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