3 Steps to successful practice 

by Liam Cain, 19th June 2018 

We all want to get better at our guitar playing. The secret to guitar improvement is practice. There are no shortcuts, no play better now apps to spend our money on to guarantee instant success. You have to spend time working on your craft. If you are investing in yourself, it makes sense to know how to build a great practice routine.

Step 1: Organise yourself

Where are you going to practice? Is your guitar to hand? You need to think about your space. For quality practice, you need to feel comfortable. Take your time creating a practice area. Make it an inspiring place to be. Add pictures, hang up your guitars and buy a pedalboard. 

The next part of organizing yourself is to ask what will you study? Are you going to work on scales or a new song? You will need to arrange suitable study materials. Which book or course will you follow to develop your scale knowledge? Invest in a music stand if you are using books. It will save your body from getting aches and pains.

Will you use a transcription book or Youtube to show you how to play a favorite song? If it is a digital product will you print it or use the computer? Take time setting up your practice materials.

We now come to how much time will you invest in your practice. The key is consistency. Plan ahead. How many days are you going to practice in a week? Perhaps you have one or two days mid-week that work makes it impossible to practice. Schedule them as days off. Try to be realistic with time commitments. If you over commit, failing to meet your plans, it will discourage you.

Step 2: The physical element

Guitar playing is a physical pastime. To be able to practice for an hour or more requires stamina. Start with your breathing. Monitor it during practice to avoid tension. Remember hydration by drinking water.

You need to develop relaxation in the hands. Pressing too hard on guitar strings wastes energy. Practice for five minutes it might be okay. Practicing longer will find fingers becoming tired. To help develop a light touch, spend time working on holding notes lightly enough to cause string buzz. From the note buzzing, press a little harder to make it ring. I would use this exercise as part of a warm-up.

A general health and fitness routine will benefit your playing. Include, stretching, cardio and strength training. Physical fitness will improve your ability to concentrate during practice sessions.

Step 3: Video or record yourself

How do you know if your practice is working? The most important person in the practice feedback loop is you. Your fans, your guitar teacher, your wife. Yes, their opinions matter. Your opinion matters most of all. Are you happy with your playing? How would you know? Record yourself. Avoid reviewing recordings immediately. Have a break then review.

Firstly, what did you like about your playing? These are your strengths. What area needs the most attention? These are your weaknesses. This simple act of recording performance allows for the resetting of goals for the next practice session. A recording is the most beneficial tool guitarists can add to build a successful practice routine. Have you recorded yourself?

You now have three steps to consider when building successful practice. What is missing from your current routine? 

Dave Gilmour Picture from: myguitarsolo.com


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