Do you sometimes feel that playing guitar involves learning a bunch of unrelated things without knowing the reason why you’re learning them? That you have to learn all this so that finally, one day, years from now, it will magically tie up together and “you can play guitar”?
I know exactly how this feels because I’ve been caught in such a trap for years, until I realized, that every time I practice something, there should be a specific purpose as to why I’m practicing it.
When you know what you’re going to achieve with the particular practicing item you are learning, and have at least an idea on how it fits in the whole picture, some great things will start happening:
- Your level of motivation to practice will increase – because you’re seeing results every time you practice.
- You will get more out of each practice session – because having a clear purpose keeps you focused and your mind is less likely to start drifting away.
- You will start seeing the bigger picture and connecting the dots – since you know the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing
- You will spend more time practicing, rather than searching randomly on Google and Youtube for exercises – because you know exactly what you need and what you should look for.
I’ll show you how to focus your practicing through an exercise I’m sure you’ve encountered before in some variation or another:
I’ve spent countless hours practicing exercises like this and I’m sure they’ve somewhat helped my musical progress. However, I would have gained way more had I practiced these exercise with intentions that are more specific than training my fingers or playing faster
The aim of this lesson is to show how you can get more from even such a simple exercise if you know what to look for, and have specific goals you want to achieve while practicing it.
What you will do is, practice that same exercise but this time, you will ask questions to yourself while you’re doing it.
Ask these questions one at a time, and in the following order.
- Is my left hand in the correct position while I’m playing each note? (consult with your teacher, or do an online search about correct hand positions. Incorrect hand positions will lead to inefficient playing, habits that will be hard to correct, and can even lead to hand injury)
- Repeat question 1, this time focusing on the right hand
- Are my right and left hand well synchronized together? – Now that you have made sure both hands are in the correct position by observing them individually, the next step is to see how well they can work together. Is one hand going faster than the other? Is one hand having a really hard time playing at the present speed while the other can go faster with much less effort?
If you do find you have a problem with synchronization, it is possible that one of your hands needs more training to “catch up” with the other, thus you may need to revisit question 1 or 2 before moving forward.
4. Am I playing on time? Many beginner students play this exercise like this: 1 2 3 4 – pause – 1 2 3 4 – pause – 1 2 3 4 – pause etc.
The reason for this is that playing notes while changing strings is harder than playing notes on the same string. When it comes to the string change there is this little pause that makes the whole exercise completely out of time.
In the exercise we’re using, every note gets one beat. You have to be careful that all beats are equal, not have a few short notes followed by a longer note.
The solution for this is simple – lower the speed of the whole exercise to the speed where you’re able to make the string changes correctly. Don’t worry if you have to play the exercise very slow, speed will come as we’ll see in the next section.
5. When you have the correct hand positions, when your hands are working in complete harmony between each other, and when you can play the exercise completely on time with a metronome, only then you should ask the question: Can I play it faster? Can I increase my speed?
Playing fast should be the last thing a beginner guitar player should focus on. However, once you have the ability to play something correctly, you can have some fun seeing how fast you can take it, and measure your speed with a metronome.
Focused practice – knowing what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and devoting all your concentration on the task at hand is the only secret to getting results fast.
“Practice, practice, practice” is an advice you will hear over and over again
And it’s true of course. Quantity of practice matters, and how!
However, the quality of practice time tends to be ignored. An hour noodling aimlessly on your guitar and an hour fully concentrating on a song, technique or exercise do not yield the same results.
Focus you practice time.
Give it some time,
And you will see the rewards.
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