How do You Get to Carnegie Hall….or the Rock Hall??
I think students & parents tend to understand that practice is important, but beyond that basic understanding there is a large gray area: Sure practice, right. Practice what? practice how? when, where, how long, why? Perhaps I can help. The main elements of practice are these:
1. Just Do It
2. Do the right things
3. Set mini goals
Here’s a bit more detail on each element of practice:
1. Just Do It. I’m not big on corporate-made catch phrases but I love this one. Regular, daily practice is by far the most important thing you can do to become good at playing guitar (or any instrument). Music is a set of skills, just like soccer or baseball, or math, and the more you often you do it the better your body and mind remember how to do it. Don’t count minutes, that won’t help, just play music. See below.
2. Do the Right Things. The second thing to know about your practice is to play the things your teacher showed or told you. One of the great things about having a teacher is that he or she knows what it takes to play your instrument. All you have to do is pay attention to what they tell or show you and then make sure you practice that. Tip: writing things down is a huge help. Also: if there is something that YOU think is really cool, practice that! Pay attention and make choices on what you like best. Music should inspire you so begin practicing inspiration.
3. Set Mini Goals. The third essential element is to practice with specific goals in mind. Don’t just mindlessly repeat things the way you did them before…that way you will teach yourself to play exactly like you did before, this will NOT make you better, it will make you the same. Each time you play a particular part of your music assignment think “what am I trying to do this time?” The answer/goal can be a simple as “sit up straight” or “keep good time” or “hit all the right notes.” When you’re done, ask “well, how was it?” Your answer to that becomes your mini goal for the next repetition of the music.
Notice that I have not told you to count the number of minutes practiced daily. Watching a clock doesn’t help anyone concentrate on anything other than: you guessed it, watching a clock. The idea of practicing is to think about playing music and that is what all of the above advise is about. Once you practice regularly, practice the important things, and practice well, THEN you can build the amount that you do. In short: Work smart before you work hard.
On my Student Resources page the very first (FREE) downloadable file is entitled Practice Log. If you take nothing else from what I write here, take that. A Practice Log keeps you on track to practice regularly and it includes a place to keep track of what items you wish to practice. The one I posted lists specifically the kinds of activities I focus on in my guitar lessons. You are welcome to it, or make one for yourself. It’s a wonderful tool. Does this all seem simple? In a way it is. Sure I can go into more detail but these basic points get you started and take you a long, long way.