BASICS: practicing right

The main reason a lot of guitar players don't improve themselves is that they practice the wrong way. How one practices is much more important than how much. 30 minutes of correct practicing is much better than 2 hours of wrong practicing. Here are the most important facts:


Practicing slowly!
If one cannot play a particular piece of music, it is important to play it very slowly. This is the only way the human brain will "store" it correctly. If you make mistakes while you practice something to fast, you will learn the mistakes as well. The question is, which is the right tempo to practice? Slow down the tempo so that you are able to play a small section of the exercise 5-7 times without mistakes before moving on to the next section. If you play it for the first time, the section should contain no more than 5-10 notes, depending on the difficulty of the whole piece. If there are still mistakes at a very slow tempo, the practicing amount of notes at a time have to be reduced, without mistakes the tempo can be gradually increased.


Maintain the same motion-sequence if playing slow!
Keep in mind to move fingers and body the same way if playing slowly than playing fast. Try to avoid jerky leaps, fast switches or large finger movements. Optimal technique is required if a musical phrase or line is planned to be played at a high speed and/or perfect sound.


Using a metronome or drum computer!
Timing is essential in music. Without good timing, even the most beautiful solo or rhythm part doesn't sound good. Using a metronome or drum computer while practicing can help dramatically in developing a good time feel. There are also some very good software which have drum computer and metronome features implemented and can be used as an alternative.


Practicing regularly!
Practicing 10 minutes every day is better than one day a week for 4 hours. The motoric brain stores information better if it is repeated many times! Good practice times are:

  • For hobby guitarists: 4 times a week, about 25 - 45 minutes
  • Semiprofessional guitarists: 5 times a week, at least 60 minutes
  • Prospective professional player: 6 times a week, at least 3 hours


Practicing things you still aren't able to play!
There is a big difference in pracitce and playing. If you practice you have to know what is supposed to get better. Practicing without an aim is wasting time. For example: if a student wants to practice the C major scale, he has to pay attention either to small finger movements or trying to get a faster tempo. Only "playing" the scale again and again, could lead to a worsening! Very important: if practicing a section of for example 16 bars and there is a mistake in bar 8, you should excercise bar 8 first as long as you can play it without any mistakes, then play 7 to 9 then afterwards the whole section again. Starting from the very beginning when a mistake happens is basically WRONG.


Things which are difficult or unpleasing in the first place!
For example sight reading and finger exercises. You should do them first, because motivation will get less after a long practicing session and you tend to leave this stuff out.


Breaks are important!
A short break at least every 20 minutes of practicing is advisable. The human brain needs these break to "process" the information correctly. Even professional players should do one day off every week or two.


No Phone, no television or other disturbing stuff!
You should be relaxed and in a good mood otherwise practicing will not be efficient! A quiet place is also very important and every source (like phones, chat programs, television etc.) should be eliminated. Practicing when other people are in the room is also something that is not recommended.

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