Good musicians are, by nature and necessity, dedicated practitioners of practicing. I get up early in the mornings excited and focused on one thing, getting my morning practice session done and then determining when I can work more practice time into a schedule that is already quite full.
Sometimes finding that extra hour or two to work on music is frustrating to me. But, after years of playing guitar, studying and working on music I've learned how to get the most out of the limited practice time that must be weaved into a demanding schedule where a majority of my work is not directly related to music.
Here's how I do it.
1. Have a set warm up routine that makes demands on you physically, technically and mentally. I do this by playing through all of the modes and hybrid scales followed by playing diatonic 7th chords in root position and all 3 inversions. This needs a lot more explanation than I want to cover here. But my point is that this takes a lot of mental focus, which good for the mind, and a lot of agility, which is good for the fingers. So...I combine many things together which means I cover a lot of technical, physical and mental ground in a short period of time. 30 minutes for me.
I follow this with sight reading and limited review of a piece, or two, that I've worked on the previous day. Kind of a refresher after a night's sleep. Ah, and I always find the mind has practice and learned over night. Thank you sweet slumber!!
2. Don't just play...do the work! Playing is either an after-work activity for enjoyment ... or for pay. Playing guitar is fun and expressing yourself through great music is highly satisfying for both you and your listener(s). But don't waste valuable practice time (Spelled W O R K) playing and relishing pieces you have already mastered. Focus on mastering new things, new ideas, new music.
3. Start each session with a goal. Maybe you just tackle one measure that's really difficult or a section or maybe you pre-read, i.e., read through a piece without that guitar in your hands, a piece you're planning to work on next. Whatever. Just know what you're going to do in each session.
4. Practice at a snail's pace. We've all heard the term Practice makes Perfect. Truthfully though only perfect practice makes perfect. Perfection at or beyond an indicated or perceived tempo is an impossibility. Just think, absolute perfection. Not possible. But varying levels of excellence is always achievable, in life and in art. So, how to get there? The answer is slow practice and I mean slow....S L O W. Tom Johnson, my former guitar instructor at North Texas State University, taught me the benefits of slow practice. Although he had to remind me many times...in each lesson, "Slow down. Slower....slower.....slower....slower. Finally it clicked after I'd practiced slowly with focus for a week. At my next lesson the result was nothing short of magical. I tell my students this: If you play a piece at one beat a minute you can come ridiculously close to perfection in most pieces. If you can read at a high level of competence you can probably play any piece nearly perfect the first time through.
5. Practice 6 days a week. Honestly, even God took a day off. As a mere mortal you probably should too. It will clear your mind or as I like to say, clear the buffer. You will notice a decided difference in your focus and playing overall Monday morning (in my case).
6. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. The science behind Sleep shows overwhelming benefits in getting plenty of sleep and the best part of your sleep, believe it or not, occurs at the 7 to 8 hour mark. Shoot for at least 7 hours and reap the benefits mentally and physically. Plus a longer and healthier life is more likely.
To recap here:
1. Have a set routine warm up routine.
2. Don't just play...do the work.
3. Start each session with a goal.
4. Practice at a snail's pace.
5. Practice six days a week.
6. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
Now...go practice. Then email me and let me know how your guitar work is going. Honestly, I'd like to know how it goes.
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