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Practice in general

1295 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  DannyBoy
Hey folks!

I've been thinking about practicing a lot lately; just finished school so i have plenty of time left evry day. The more i think of it the more the sentence "U are what u practice" (or sth like that ^^) makes sense to me.
So i thought i'll just share my thoughts with ya and would ask you to do so as well, cuz evryone knows the feeling when he hears someone play a trillion times better than he. In that moment u just ask urself "How the hell has he gotten there?". (This applies heavily to some ppl here , at least for me ;) )
Maybe we can change that for some people in the long term (me included :) ).

Things I'd be interested in is 'what to practice' (technique, improvising etc. what exactly ur doing), "the frame of mind u 'should' be in when practicing xyz", which things to pay attention to etc. .

So, there are some things I've come across in the last 4 years through reading, asking different teachers and other players.

First, what is practice?
I personally had to learn it the 'hard way' what it is. A friend of mine started playing a year after i did; of course i was way better than he was for the next year. We then hadnt seen each other for quite a long time. We met to play a bit; i couldnt believe it, darn he was better than me!
When i asked him what in frickins sake he did he said 'just practice' - ugh. That was bad, i was practicing irregularly but when i practiced i did it the whole day; I played scales; I did tempo exercises; i played along my most favourite bands, what had i been doing wrong?
When I asked him what he was practicing we ended up doing pretty much the same, so no help from him.
So what was the difference? I think it was the understanding of 'practice' and just 'doing it'.

Practice should be a very regular not too long event where u focus heavily on a given task. Meaning, no phone, no dog, no TV, just you, your muscles, your mind and your guitar. Attention is the most important aspect here; it's all about recognizing the mistakes; adjusting your overall practice. And most importantly, letting your muscles learn the things you want them to do.

When i 'practiced' i did it twice a week; the whole day. With the tv on, chatting with friends via ICQ, playing this and that trying to get it right. I didn't know -what- to achieve. I didn't know how to achieve it. I was just doing something with my guitar hoping i would get any better with it. Now that is -not- practicing. The difference between practicing and playing is very important. Both is important but it is equally important to seperate those two.

What to practice?
When it comes to technique u first have to find out the "how". How do i hold the pick, how to place the hand on the fretboard, how to actually move ur hand/fingers whatever.
For that, get yourself a teacher, ask other players and try to find out what feels most natural to YOU. When your guitar hero does xyz that way it doesnt mean u should do it as well! You can't practice anything when u don't even know how it is done right!

Then it's all about finding exercises that suit YOU (the hard part, for me at least). It makes no sense to do a scale in 16ths @ 80 if u still have problems holding ur pick. If so only play the the first tick @ 60 or so and try to find out until it feels really good. Then move on to the 1 & 3 @ 60 and so on; just let ur fingers, ur muscles actually 'learn'.
And again, if u don't pay complete attention you won't even recognize ur problems with ur pick, fiddling around for ages, getting no further than 16ths @ 80 cuz the little 'mistake' with ur pick won't let you go any further.

How to organize practice?
When i asked my present teacher (an impressive guitar player -and- teacher) about intensive practicing he explained the concept of 'Practice plans'. It comes from professional sports (is it called like that? ^^) and is about learning things the most efficient way.
The concept is based on 3:1 in terms of practice units to breaks. Meaning if one of your practice units is 3 minutes you practice 3 minutes and have a 1 minute break. After doing that 3 times (3+1+3+1+3+1 = 12 mins) we have 3:1 again. So 3+3+3 = 9 mins work, thats 3 mins break.
We get (3+1)+(3+1)+(3+1)+3 = 15 mins.

Now don't laugh - it makes sense :) . Playng the guitar is a very tough thing to do for our fingers and our minds. In order to learn that we need short repetitive actions, followed by a break to let it settle.

By the way, when my teacher spoke of breaks he meant real breaks, meaning sitting there and doing completely nothing. Trying to empty the mind, maybe thinking about the action your doing next. Ever tried to do nothing? One minute can be god damn long! And if one minute can be so long, those 3 minutes concentrating heavily on one thing can be hell gg. But it helps staying completely focused and concentrated and it will make a difference.
While this sounds a bit weird i admit; all i can say is it works! I learned bendings that way; by doing one bend for 3 minutes every day for 2 weeks or so. Now i'm still no master and it still sounds a bit out sometimes but 3 minutes evry day 2 weeks long that's 42 minutes of actual practice! Ok, i always had strong fingers; i'm not a complete noob etc. but i just couldnt do it, now i can :).
Powerful tool that.
Well, but to stick to the headline @ organising stuff i found it most efficient to make urself a simple plan looking like the following:

|Bend from 5 to 7; g string|
|Sex machine rhythm with paper inbetween strings (w/o left hand) @ 60|
|Opening lick from stairway to heaven solo @ 60 and quarters|
Evry unit is 3 minutes long, 1 minute break inbetween followed by a 3 minutes break. If i do that for 2 weeks i can do all of that with ease (probably earlier).

By the way, there are people who fiddle around for ages, asking theirselves for the 100. time if what they're doing is right (i am such a person ^^). While that is not completely wrong, JUST DOING IT is very important here. What helped me is "seperating the plans from doing them". Meaning, I do the plan the day before i use it. And when i use it I don't question it any more.
Dunno if that's just me but i've always had this problem when 'practicing'.

Closing words
Sooooooooooo now that was a long post. Those things helped me out a lot just recently. I don't play well because i didnt practice properly for a long period of time. 8 weeks ago i started applying all those things i learned over the years, kicking myself to just frickin do it and i must say i'm impressed.

But while i primarily wrote about practicing in general this is not everything. What has worked for you? What kind of practice has made you the way you are? How do you practice improvising? How do you organize it? What mistakes in playing have you encountered in general? How did you learn to 'groove'? etc. etc. I hope you get it :icon_peac

Uh and yeah, if u find any wrong tenses, any strange expressions or just bad english - sorry for that :) .

So far, lets get it on with this thread :icon_thum
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Long ass post, Man. I couldn't read the whole thing without taking a break. Break it into pieces for easier digestion :thumb:
Uhh umm, you could be right, I just kept on writing and writing.... I see if i can write it a bit more, err, organized. Thanks tho :)
I will say this: I only practiced when I felt like it. When I first started, I had 6 hours a day to kill during schoiol days, then another 10 hours a day during summer. I was hitting all the parties and getting laid with just my guitar and amp and a pack of Trojan Mangnums.

I tried to force myself to practice a few times, and it made me less emotional in my playing at that time. I felt like I had to practice, and my actual playing suffered. Even now, some twenty-odd years later, I may not play for a few months before picking up and playing. It's muscle memory, so if you play it enough, it will still be there when you are ready to call it from within.
Muscle memory is a good thing, thats how i play. When I learn a song i do it by that....but in a way it sucks because when I have to play in front of anyone...I guess I suffer from memory loss because i dont know what the hell im doin!....I'm just the kind of guy who gets nervous in front of people....unless i dont care, then i do my best!
El_jalepeno said:
I felt like I had to practice
I have that feeling for quite some time now but it can be a good thing. It just feels good to work hard for something and see ur overall playing improve pretty fast :) .

I think the hard thing about it is to let practice be what it is. To not mix it with ur actual playing - helped me alot.

Sampson1 said:
...unless i dont care, then i do my best!
So true :p
Everytime i try to record something i just came up with i mess it up gg cuz i actually care about the sound and the feel. Its getting better the more i try it tho. :afro:
don't practise dude . it makes it become a chore ... guitar playing should never feel like a chore . just pick it up and play . jam some backings or improv some runs and licks and sweeps of your own . just play the thing . now and then try something new that might frighten you . you will no doubt make up loads of new licks and get loads of new ideas simply by doing that . but if you like practise ... then im sure you will find the best way to go about it in your own way :) good luck
dannyboy said:
don't practise dude
I have to say I disagree with that.

I have read that practicing 15 minutes a day is better than big chunks of time once in a while. I buy it.
fair enough mate . but ive done well doing it my way ... dont see many down sides :) . and also i'd like to add that i generally play alot everyday ... so maybe thats why it works for me ... for those less fortunate with free time perhaps practising is the way to go .
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