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The Art of Practicing Guitar

One of the main reasons many people quit learning guitar (or refrain from starting in the first place) is that they consider the time they spend practicing as stressful. Rather than fun, they see it as a chore they have to do each day, or for a certain amount of days each week, in order to reach their goals.

Today, I practice on a daily basis and enjoy every single moment of it. This wasn’t always the case. For a number of years I found practicing guitar to be frustrating, without knowing that what was really stressing me out was not the content of what I was learning, but the way I was doing things, and even more importantly, my mindset.

Being aware of the following errors can save you hours of frustration and help you reach your dreams more quickly. Be sure to persistently avoid doing them.

You’re expecting too much from yourself. Your favorite guitarists were once complete beginners. Behind every musical giant there are thousands of hours of practice. You should never stress yourself because you can’t do something – yet. You’re going to build up to it in small steps like every successful musician has done before you.

You’ll find learning some things quite easy but other things can get pretty challenging. Mastering a technique or a theoretical concept can take time. Don’t stress yourself out because you can’t get something right the first time… or the second or the third! Most things require a certain amount of repetition in order to really sink in and be done right.

You’re practicing things that are not in line with your goals.

The first guitar lessons I took, I was only being taught how to read standard notation on guitar.

While it’s always great to learn how to read music (it’s a skill you should acquire if you want to take music seriously), it was completely out of line with my main goal back then, which was to play in a Rock band.

There was nothing wrong with the content of what I was practising but learning things that didn’t lead to what I really wanted killed my motivation.

Practicing things in the wrong order. Once, while I was still just learning how to read the notes on the fretboard, I bought a Guitar Player magazine and there was this lesson on the Myxolidian mode. I didn’t know what the heck a Myxolidian mode was but I started learning the pattern I saw in front of me. It took me ages to learn since I hadn’t yet trained my fingers to move comfortably around the fretboard, and gained from it absolutely nothing. How could I have ever understood what the use of the Myxolidian mode is if I still had no idea what scales were and how to use them, let alone the modes?

We’re living in the age of information. Everything we need to know is at the tip of our fingers. This is something amazing, but with it comes the risk of getting lost in all the information. Don’t get into the habit of learning random things from the Internet. If you do so you will not only learn a lot of things that aren’t in line with your goals, but you will also try to learn things that are beyond your abilities, or level of understanding.

You don’t practice regularly. The more you practice the faster you’ll reach your goals, but how frequently you practise matters too.

There was a period in my life when I used to spend hours practicing in the weekend and not practicing anything during the week. I was still learning new things and getting better, but the pace was much slower than it would have been if I had split that time equally along the week.

This may not always be easy since on some days you’re less busy than others. The best way to go around this is to practice as much as possible on those days you are not busy but practice at least a little (even just 5 minutes if you really don’t have time) every day.

You engage in unhealthy competition. Competition can be fun, but only if it’s the right kind of competition. If competition means playing with your friends, learning from them, genuinely complimenting them on their progress, while trying to be even better than them, you’re engaging in healthy competition. That kind of competition is not only fun but it will also increase your level of motivation, as a result of which you’ll become a better musician.

On the other hand, if you see every other guitar player as a rival who you need to be better than or else you feel like a loser you’re only hurting your chances of success. There will always be someone better or faster. If you’re spending time and energy comparing yourself with those who are better than you, your practice time is going to be stressful and frustrating. Furthermore you might easily get sidetracked from your goals since rather than focusing on the specific things you need to achieve your longer term goals, you’ll focus most of your practice time on trying to reach your short term goal of beating your rival, even though the war is only going on in your head.

Having a positive mindset while practising, and not committing the mistakes mentioned above will not only make your practice more fun but you’ll also find yourself practising more and being more efficient during your practice time.


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