Ways of Effective Practicing


The very word conjures feelings of dread and commitment. Maybe you think “I didn’t practice last week and my teacher really got on my case…maybe I’ll tell him I was sick or something…yeah, and my dog ate my pick!”

What you really need to do is structure your practice by setting goals for yourself and rewarding yourself for reaching those goals. And the goals have to be realistic, not something like “I’m gonna figure out Yngwie Malmsteen’s solo on ‘Riot in the Dungeon’ and I won’t eat until I nail it note for note!!” These goals, though admirable, lead to discouragement since they’re not practical.

Let’s say your teacher has an assignment for you to practice playing the G major scale against a II-V progression (Amin7 D7). If you have a tape recorder, you can tape those chords (most boom boxes have a built in mic) for say five minutes, then play it back and work the scales against it. Set a minimum time of 15 minutes to work on this every day, backing up the tape and replaying as needed. Once you’ve met this goal, you can crank your amp, put on Metallica or whoever and rock out. Have fun – hey it’s music! This is the reward time!

This goal is much more achievable and you reap good things from this. Sometimes if I have a hard time with playing a particular passage, I’ll say “OK, I’m going to play this 10 times a day until I get it right and it gets easier”, so you make the *work* the goal, not necessarily the end achievement (which is a longer term goal).

The problem is oftentimes we don’t work on new (translate: harder) things and play the old (translate: easier) things that we’re good at. If you discipline yourself to work on the hard things, they get easier! It’s true!

If you want to run a 10 mile race and haven’t run before, you’d have to lay out a practice/training schedule, starting with maybe one mile, and then increasing the distance say 10-20% every week until 10 miles is doable for you.

I have in mind to make and market a practice CD for the budding guitarists. It will consist of backup tracks of guitar, bass and drums and will play various chord progressions in various keys and it would last a significant amount of time (plus you can put your CD on “Repeat”). This will be fun to make and I plan to start working on this soon.

So keep practicing and be watching for my CD!


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