Five Methods For Effective Practice

practice makes perfect!

Effective practice habits are essential for the development of any guitarist no matter what the skill level

As a musician progresses a regular practice schedule must be kept, I’m not talking about 2 or 3 hours just on weekends, I mean a daily routine of x amount of time. For beginners who have not developed calluses and finger strength, this time may be about 30 minutes or less per day. (if your fingers are really hurting, take a break) Make a realistic guitar practice schedule and modify it to your needs as time goes on, but keep it real.

But when the fingers get toughened up this can be increased depending on each individuals circumstances. Another thing to think about is this: If I am taking lessons, the frequency of these lessons should be matched to how much practising I am doing.

So lets get right down to it.

Tip One: Preparation

It is best to have a place where there are as little distractions as possible. If you are sitting down, use a regular chair with no arms and it’s best to have a music stand of some sort for your music notation, tablature, or whatever else you are practising. Make sure your guitar is in tune. If you need help with tuning go to this article.

Next look at the song or exercise you are learning and read it thoroughly and digest it. At this point it is good, to hum or sing out loud the notes, it doesn’t matter if you can sing or not, just try to match the pitches or notes aurally. This also helps with your ear training. Next we pick up the guitar.

Tip Two: Break It Down

Whether it is a long complicated or a short and simple song/exercise it is better to break it down into manageable chunks (you must decide how big these chunks are based on your skill level)At this point it is very useful to hum, sing, or whistle a melody before and while you play it to help develop your ear. Ear training is probably one of the most important skills a musician can have, I say.

Also to accomplish any goal, remember we always hit bumps along the way. So practice each part one at a time, slowly until you have mastered it, then move on to the next part. Make sure to go very slow and increase speed when you are playing cleanly and clearly with no fret buzz. Remember, to play fast you must play slow, first!

Tip Three: Don’t Forget Rhythm

And here is a key part: Use a metronome when you practice. You must include the “rhythm” aspect of music or it’s not music. Adjust the metronome to a slow speed and play, (attempt to match the beat 1, 2, 3, 4, of the metronome) if you can play the piece with no buzzing or mistakes, increase the speed a little and try it again.
Another good idea is to use backing tracks, that you can play along with. There are many sources available online. This will solidify the rhythm of your playing. Experiment with different time signatures like 3/4, 4/4, 6/8, and learn “swing eights” for 12 and 8 bar blues. Learn to play “in the groove” !!!  Of course it is best to play with other musicians to gain a sense of feel or rhythm.

Tip Four: Record Yourself

Record your practice sessions, become your own critic, and see your playing from a different perspective. You can buy inexpensive memo recording devices, or you can go whole-hog and use a audio editing program like Audacity on your computer. If you have a microphone you can record yourself with the metronome or backing tracks(drums, bass, rhythm guitar or any combination)

When you record your self, it’s like a “reality check” for your playing. It is like the path of a guided missile, it never goes directly to its target. It continually corrects and re-corrects itself along the way, until it reaches the target. So we can also keep correcting our playing until we reach our goals. You can see clearly what sounds good or bad, and work on the bad areas and be encouraged to keep going, by the good.

Tip Five: Meditate

When I say meditate I mean this: put the guitar down and think about your playing and then imagine yourself playing. Try to think about what it would sound like to play the thing you are working on, flawlessly. Can you see it? Make it real in your own mind. This technique is actually useful for learning anything, not just the guitar, its called “visual imagining”.

Bonus Tip: Make It Fun (probably the most important)

As you apply all the above methods just remember to keep on make it fun!
If you aren’t having fun with your music, you need to regroup. Do something “fun” with your guitar. Explore new areas or techniques you have been putting of. Change it up!

  • Learn a classical song.
  • Learn a love song and play it for your sweetheart.
  • Check out some new effects.
  • Compose an original song for your kids or grand-kids, they will love it.
  • Play the radio full blast and play along with your electric guitar, with the amp cranked.
  • Play and have a sing along party with your family or friends.
  • My personal favourite: play a 12 bar blues with original funny lyrics (every time you play it), too funny to say the least, or I thought so at any rate.
  • Use your imagination!

If you make it fun, your going to want to use these practice methods to improve, and have more fun. Also remember that you don’t have to be a professional musician to be passionate about your music. (not to say professionals are not passionate)

So if you follow the advice above not only will you learn/improve your guitar playing faster, you will have fun along the way and isn’t that what its all about anyway. Absolutely!!!

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