Monday, March 8, 2010

How to Practice

Before practicing, one must take an honest look at one's playing and find the areas that need improvement. Making the improvement and staying on the path to progress isn't always easy. It's not as simple as "practice makes perfect." A number of factors will determine whether you progress:


Here are some tips to help you on the musical journey:


1)Pick your battles, don't take on the whole "army" at once:
The choice of what to work on can be overwhelming.
Especially in the midst of today's vast musical library and instrumental techniques. Start off simple, find two things you need to practice and do them until you have them. One of my favorite authors Hazrat Khan said, "Accomplishing one thing gives us the ability to accomplish something even greater". So CONCENTRATE on accomplishing one thing, don't disperse your energies into too many areas.


2)Have a Plan-make notes of what you want to work on for the day.
It's easy to sit around for thirty minutes trying to decide what to practice if you don't have a plan. That's thirty minutes you could have been making progress.


3)Duration- Some people can sit and practice for four hours without a break. I am not one of them. I tend to practice in 30-45 minute sessions and then I'll take a break. I am often asked "How long should I practice?". Different goals require different commitments. If you only want to play in the comfort of your own home then 30 minutes a day should suffice. If you want to play at the local jams then 30 minutes may not be enough, depends on the quality of the "local jam." If you decide to become a professional musician, it requires the same dedication as any other occupation....hours of hard work.


4)Have FUN!-Up to this point, the tone has been "serious".
However, don't forget to have FUN. Balance is important to prevent burnout and to keep our interests up. All of our practice time should not be so serious. Just sit and noodle with your instrument, trying different sounds and chords. Whatever you want to do. Very often I'll get my guitar and start tuning the strings to random notes and play by ear.


5)Write songs-One thing I do is try to write songs incorporating the
new musical devices I'm working on.


6)Visual practice-Visualize yourself playing the chords, notes, etc.


7)Audio practice-Listen to the recording and play-a-long in your
head (chords, solos, etc). I have learned A LOT of music in this manner. Listening to music can be practicing. You are absorbing the nuances of the music as you
listen. LISTENING is the one thing that most people don't do enough of.

8)Don't get too frustrated-you will go down the road of discouragement
along your musical journey. When this comes you need to know what to do.
My advice is to simply step away from the instrument and examine your motives.
Why are you playing music? What does it mean to you? Maybe it's gotten
to the point you are taking it to "serious" and you need to have more fun? Maybe you need a reminder that you are a human being and you aren't always gonna sound good every time you pick up the instrument. Maybe you need to re-evaluate how you are
practicing?


9)Random Practice-this is a technique I use. I take two things (up to four)
to work on. I work on the first for 15 minutes and then switch to the second.
I go back and forth. It allows one to get in repetitions, but also trains
the mind to do things in a more "random" fashion, which is how the material
you're practicing is often played in performance. This will give you greater freedom with your musical expression. In addition, this particular form of practicing has been shown to lead to better long term memory retention.


10)Record yourself and listen back. Sometimes you might be surprised at the
things that show up. Use this to work on your tone, dynamics, etc.

More as I get time