Wednesday 2 Sep 2015
Here Are My Top 5 Things To Help You Optimize Your Guitar Practice to Gain Better Results
So we all know that we need to practice more at the guitar, but with that being said, how can we optimize the time that we spend practicing so that we can be the guitar ninjas that we so desire?
As you may know, I have been picking, strumming and noodling at this instrument for over 30 years now and I feel like I have just scratched the surface of what it or I am capable of doing. We all have limited time, so EXACTLY how can we “up our game” so that we can be the best we can be?
Here Are My Top 5 Things To Help You Optimize Your Guitar Practice
1. Perfect Practice
We have heard it said before, “practice makes perfect”, but truth be told, “PERFECT practice makes perfect”! Our brains are designed to learn and learn QUICKLY, if we direct it the right way! If we are practicing a part right OR wrong, we are creating habits. No matter the subject we are CONSTANTLY building “neural paths”. Essentially these are swaths, or electric tunnels within our brains to do a particular task. If we practice something wrong, we are STILL practicing and we are STILL building a path in our brain.
For a moment, think about walking across a meadow of grass. Once across it, if you look behind you, you will see a slight path where your feet have trampled down the grass. NOW, if that path was “correct”, it would make sense that you should go down the same path again. If not, you are creating yet another path. Eventually, if you’re not paying attention, you will have many lightly treaded paths across this meadow. However, if you’re practicing the correct part over and over again you are building a very clear path.
Using this tried and true method will build a very clear neural path across the meadow of your brain making it nearly impossible to play something incorrectly. However if there are many various swaths across that meadow, your margin for error will increase. Once the correct way to play something is found, you should SLOWLY and SURELY play it again and again until you have built that correct neural path. The moral of this story is, don’t practice a mistake twice.
2. Deliberate Practice
Many guitar players who have been playing for years wonder why it is that they never see forward momentum. Deliberate practice is something that will immediately remedy this from day one. Essentially, deliberate practice is sitting down to practice with a specific goal in mind. For example, if I didn’t know how to Travis pick, I would set my sights on understanding the basic concept of Travis picking in one sitting. For guitar lessons on Travis Picking and other styles of picking become a member of the Unstoppable Guitar System for only $1, full details here.
If we don’t have a specific and deliberate goal when we sit down and practice, then essentially we are just going to be noodling at the guitar. Now, that’s not necessarily bad. However, if you are not seeing the progress that you would like to see in your own guitar playing, I would highly suggest setting mini goals every time that you sit down to practice the guitar. This could be learning a riff, a solo, song, scale or whatever is within your reach or better yet, just slightly out of your reach to push you into excellence.
Why is it that you play guitar? Because you were inspired! That’s right, it was either a song, another guitar player, a love interest or any number of other variables that drew you to pick up this fantastic instrument. But, what happens in time to every guitar player is that we lose our inspiration. Sometimes this is for a short amount of time while sometimes this is for many years. Tragic but true!
We need to be inspired! We need to be motivated! But just how do we do that? For me, I am constantly learning new songs. Sometimes these are new songs and sometimes they are classic songs from my childhood that I always wanted to learn how to play. Sometimes it’s seeing my favorite band in concert or purchasing their new album. Whatever the source of inspiration is, you need it in order to survive as a flourishing guitarist.
Now, here’s the kicker! It will not come to you! What I mean by that is you must “shake the bushes”. You must pull videos up on YouTube. You must go see your favorite bands in concert. Sometimes inspiration will visit you, but most of the time you have to give it a little push. Be inspired as inspiration begets inspiration!
4. Focused Practice
How well can someone drive while texting? Needless to say, this is very dangerous. Unfocused guitar practice will seriously limit your progress as a musician as well. When you practice, turn the phone off, turn the computer off, get in a place where you can truly focus on your hands and the music. You might find that it will only yield an additional 20 with 30% of your attention, however, that additional focus often times is exactly what you need to break through to the next level of guitar playing that is awaiting for you. FOCUS GRASSHOPPER!
5. Slow and Steady
We’ve heard it said before, slow and steady wins the race! No truer words can be spoken when it comes to practicing the guitar. Remember earlier when I spoke about perfect practice? Well this is where the rubber really meets the road. This is an area that you have to be very acute at, by watching yourself from the outside. That is to say, if you find yourself getting frustrated, feeling like you’re not progressing fast enough, or just not getting it then you are trying to move too quickly.
I always tell my students, accuracy leads to speed 100% of the time. Speed will never come before accuracy. Speed is a byproduct of accuracy. If you have a song that you want to learn, first break it into several different parts. For example, introduction, verse, chorus, solo etc. Once you break those parts down, try to break it down further. For example, if it’s a guitar solo, break it up into tiny phrases. You’ve heard the expression, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”?
It’s also true about learning songs or any subject for that matter. Take as much time as you need to play the part correctly one time. Then do that several more times very slowly. If you have no issues playing it very slowly, then slowly speed it up. Remember, it is true, slow and steady does win the race!
Erich Andreas has been playing and teaching guitar for nearly 30 years. He has taught 100s of students for 1000s of hours, has authored several books on the subject, has over 40,000,000 video views on his collective YouTube channels and is passionate about creating guitar ninjas all over the world. His philosophy is, if you have the right instruction and do the practice there is NOTHING that you cannot accomplish!