Have you been playing your guitar on a regular basis and still not achieved any significant results? In this post, I want to talk a bit about practicing; specifically, finding the best way to practice based on your goals. With the term practicing, I don’t mean grabbing your guitar and sitting in front of the tv and noodling around. I don’t consider that practicing; it’s fun, sure, but this type of playing doesn’t get you any further towards any goal. I mean actually sitting down with some sheet music in front of you or some other technical goal in mind and working towards that goal.
Consider for a moment that you’re training for a marathon. You wouldn’t grab a pair of sneakers and just start jogging around every once in a while, would you? You’d create a plan of action and methodically work a little each day towards that goal. Similarly, weight lifters spend hours on end training their muscles with a structured plan for how to accomplish their goals. The same rules apply to practicing an instrument.
First, you need to figure out what you want to accomplish in a particular practice session. Sometimes it might be working on a technique, while other times you might want to work on a particular piece of music. Either way, knowing what you want to accomplish in a particular practice session will allow you to better prepare for that session and make the best use of your time.
Once you’ve figured out what you want to accomplish, you need to plan how to reach your goals. Sometimes this is as simple as planning to work on a particular piece of music during your practice time. Other times, you might have several techniques you want to work on. For technique practice, I like to work with small etudes that emphasize that technique. However, you could also simply map out a few exercises and work on those exercises. The key is knowing what you want to accomplish and working towards that end.
Most of what I’ve talked about so far is for solo guitar playing. However, similar rules apply to playing in a band. Getting together every once in a while will be fun and worthwhile, but if you’re serious about playing together in a band, nothing beats practicing together on a regular basis with a plan of action, such as a list of songs to perfect for an upcoming show.
In summary, it is as important to prepare to practice as it is to practice and to create measurable goals so that you can determine your progress. Additionally, you’ll get better results from practicing on a regular basis rather than from sporadic all-day marathons.
Practicing doesn’t always make perfect, but perfect practice typically does.