If you are aiming to pursue a career as a guitarist, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time for practice, and it is crucial that you practice in the right way. When you learn to play a musical instrument you’re not just developing your technique, music theory, aural skills, etc, you are also learning how to practice effectively. Here are some tips to help you out.
- A quiet practice space. Find somewhere quiet where you can completely focus and really hear detail in your playing. Pick a time and place where you know you won’t be interrupted. Early morning practice is great – I like to practice soon after waking up. Your ears are at their most sensitive.
- Set a goal/focus on something specific. Don’t just noodle around and play stuff you know. Guitarist are notorious noodlers (is that a word?). What are the weakest aspects of your playing? If you’re not sure, see number 6!
- Practice things you can’t do. This might sound obvious but it’s easy to slip into playing things you are already good at. This is following on from the previous point – focused, effective practice means working on something you are not good at. If you are learning a grade exam piece, identify the hard bits and practice those bits in isolation.
- Practice slowly. My first guitar teacher once said to me “If you can’t play it perfectly while playing it slowly you can’t play it”. Practicing slowly gives you time to hear and focus on any imperfections. Gradually increase the speed when you can play whatever you are working on perfectly. Make sure you are relaxed!
- Routine. Regular practice is key. Develop a routine. Daily if you can.
- Record yourself playing. You don’t need fancy recording equipment, most people have a smart phone these days – use the record function to record your playing. Try recording something you have practiced a lot and listen to it. Does it sound like how you heard it while you played it? If not, why? Compare side by side to the original if you can. Practice for a bit focusing on one of the bits you identified and record it again. Keep doing this until you have ironed out all the bits and you are happy with the result. Hearing yourself in a recording can be really revealing and therefore really worth doing.
- Listen. Listen to plenty of music, not just guitarists. Listen to lots of different styles.
- Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. True say. I’ll leave you with that.