The Art Of Practicing - How To See Real Results
I have always believed that success, in practically any subject you can think of, is a direct result of "clear thinking". That is, the ability to understand very clearly what needs to be achieved and the action to set about surmounting very necessary hurdles in order to reach those goals. Less than successful people are either not clear in their goals or for one reason or another give up along the way. It's leveling that rough terrain, along with a clearly defined end result in mind that will get you there in the end. The success roadmap might go something like this:
Visualize goal => Surmount problems => Score
Sounds simple doesn't it? However, this clear thinking is all very well but it's usually the thought required before step 1 (visualization) that causes problems. Very often the goal does not manifest in mind because the process is so overwhelming.
And so it is with practicing the guitar, or any instrument for that matter. In more laymen's terms it's more like "What the hell should I be practicing?".
Practice is a constant struggle for many people. There is so much to learn and often so little time to allocate to it. For the jazz musician, clear thinking can be as simple as "I really like that Charlie Parker 2, 5 - how does he do that?". Then transcribing the line, practicing it in all keys and working the phrase into your own vocabulary. The 'score' as I like to call it is the ability to work it in to your own playing. I want to talk a little about that in a minute.
First, I think the most important thing to talk about is how to make best use of your practice time. There was a time when I started playing where I used to sit in my room and allocate 15 minutes to practicing scales and arpeggios, 10 minutes on technique exercises, 20 minutes on sight reading and 1/2 an hour on practicing my classical guitar repertoire. Why? because my teacher told me I had to. Years later once I started to study jazz guitar on my own I didn't feel the need to be practicing this way. It wasn't really benefiting me fully.
I started to have my own goals in mind that I wanted to reach. I wanted to learn to play like one or two of my heroes, but more importantly because I liked what they played. Even more under the microscope were certain melodic lines and licks that tweaked my ear and fueled me to transcribe or simply copy the way they phrased or 'felt' a phrase. Once I clearly had in mind what I wanted to achieve I could go about achieving it - I knew what I had to do.
It's important to sit down to practice and be really clear about what you are going to do during that practice time. Now, one thing that helped me tremendously was when I made a huge commitment to scheduled practicing. In other words, deciding that every single day, no matter what, I would sit down and dedicate exactly one hour to working at this instrument. The amazing thing I found is that my regularly scheduled practice literally fueled my regularly scheduled practice!
Does this make sense? What this means is that, the more I practiced, the more I wanted to practice. What started out as a committed hour turned into committed six hour sessions. Once I got into music college in London I remember waking up in the morning and practicing until I went to bed at night, remembering to eat on occasion. I was so fueled by the commitment to practice that the drive to play took over completely.
Regular practice clearly keeps your guitar technique on tip top form. There's nothing like picking up the guitar and playing a few short runs and being on top of your game, simply because you are playing regularly.
The other wonderful thing about committing to regular practice is that it actually helps you to think much more clearly, because you start to see results. Once you start to see results the concept of learning is much less overwhelming and you are able to make decisions about what you want to work on much more easily.
So do yourself a huge favor, first, make the decision to want to get much better at your guitar playing. Then once you have decided that, make a clear commitment right now and allocate a certain time of day to your guitar practice. If you only have limited time then give yourself what you know you can afford. Once you get your teeth into this system, if you don't have more time, trust me you will want to find more time. You might just want to wake up earlier. The drive to learn will take over.
Quality practice is key. I find now I am older that, if I let myself, I can get more and more distracted because there are so many other facets to my life. When I make the decision to focus 100% on my guitar problems and how I can surmount them, I find I can get completely absorbed for hours once I get going. Sometimes it helps to avoid those distractions from the outset. Maybe turn the phone off!
There is a huge difference between playing the guitar and practicing the guitar. I can play for days quite happily but am I learning anything new? Not unless I stop myself and work on my weaknesses. And there are plenty of those trust me! Many years ago I wanted to learn licks from my favorite players. I would hear a line and transcribe it. Many times I found that those musical phrases would not come out in my playing and I asked myself why. It dawned on me that there were three possible reasons:
1) I found the phrase too technically difficult to pull off.
Let's talk about these briefly.
Sometimes a horn line does not necessarily fit under the fingers on the guitar. The line might sound just terrific on a sax but if I can't play it on my guitar it's not going to have the same effect. In fact quite the opposite! Everyone is somewhat limited technically (although there are a few players that keep my head scratching I must admit!), every player has a ceiling in their own mind and I think it's perfectly OK to let some things go because they are just two gymnastic on the guitar. It's of course relative to each player's ability and comfort zone.
Occasionally I'll try and work something into my music vocabulary and it just doesn't feel like me. Some players sound great playing certain things and when I play them them they either sound too much like that other great player or I just don't feel it. Music has to be personal, it's OK to weed out stuff that you don't want to use, even when those 'weeds' are a rose garden to others.
The last idea is something very important I think. That is the idea that when you work on some new vocabulary or a new harmonic idea, that you fully understand how to use it and just as importantly, how to work it into your playing so it comes out naturally. Let's assume you are transcribing a lick on a CD you like. The first thing to do is to make sure you get the notes right. You might slow it down (there is plenty of software on the market that enables you to do this now). Whatever it takes, make sure the notes you are transcribing are correct. Then it is a matter of practicing that phrase so it feels good when you play it.
Now most folks stop right there and wonder why the phrase never shows up in their playing. The secret is to figure out exactly what chord (or group of chords) is being played underneath that line. After that, figure out what other chords could also be played underneath that phrase. Next, learn how to play that phrase everywhere on the fretboard, in different positions and keys. Finally and the most important, work the phrase into your own playing. To do this, start by improvising in any way that you normally might and focus on ways to connect that new phrase you want to play. The new phrase starts on a certain note and you will need to focus on that starting note in order to make a connection to it. Practice improvising freely and connecting to that new phrase, focusing on its starting note. Do this in all keys. Pretty soon you will know if the phrase is going to come out into your playing or not.
The art of practice is a huge subject and musicians have written complete books on it. But I do believe the real success starts with clear thinking. Make a decision to focus on something specific. Here is a more detailed roadmap to take on board:
1) Visualize. What do you want to work on - what do you want to achieve?
Great players really got to grips with practicing in the early stages. It became fascinating to them and the results they saw fueled more practice. It's a self perpetuating phenomenon. By simply not practicing, the incentive to pick up your instrument diminishes over time. Then the excuses start to pour out in torrents. Then regrets. Then a very dusty guitar possibly in a dark attic somewhere.
Get practicing. Quality practice. Ask yourself questions. Look for the answers. Insist on results. This is the key to improving.
Chris Standring is an international jazz recording artist and educator. For more info about him and his highly acclaimed home study guitar course please visit http://www.playjazzguitar.com
Celebrating William Kraft, Los Angeles New Music Legend - The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music - UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Celebrating William Kraft, Los Angeles New Music Legend - The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
A Warm Welcome Back to The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Spooky music planned for North County Winds' Oct. 8 concert in 4S Ranch - The San Diego Union-Tribune
Spooky music planned for North County Winds' Oct. 8 concert in 4S Ranch The San Diego Union-Tribune
Songwriter gigi finds a place for comfort with music, being on stage Albuquerque Journal
‘There’s endless choice, but you’re not listening’: fans quitting Spotify to save their love of music - The Guardian
‘There’s endless choice, but you’re not listening’: fans quitting Spotify to save their love of music The Guardian
Willamette Country Music Concerts President Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud and Money Laundering - Department of Justice
Willamette Country Music Concerts President Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud and Money Laundering Department of Justice
Carrboro Music Festival returns with over 100 bands after past COVID-19 cancellations - The Daily Tar Heel
Carrboro Music Festival returns with over 100 bands after past COVID-19 cancellations The Daily Tar Heel
Has streaming made it harder to discover new music? The Guardian
‘Monarch’ Music Supervisor on How the Country Series Uses Classic Covers and Indie Artists - Variety
Tell us about your best new music discovery in 2022 The Guardian
ASU's WVAS 'Radio Partner' for Inaugural Jazz Music Awards Alabama State University
Inaugural Lafayette Music Festival, ‘an idea long overdue,’ puts dozens of bands on area stages - Boulder Daily Camera
Inaugural Lafayette Music Festival, ‘an idea long overdue,’ puts dozens of bands on area stages Boulder Daily Camera
The Seductive Music of James Joyce's Ulysses Hyperallergic
Music on Main w/ Carolyn Wonderland City of Round Rock
Music Professor to Begin Artist-in-Residency in Germany University of Arkansas Newswire
Wet Leg, Stormzy & Rina Sawayama Win at 2022 AIM Independent Music Awards: Full Winners List - Billboard
Wet Leg, Stormzy & Rina Sawayama Win at 2022 AIM Independent Music Awards: Full Winners List Billboard
Singer-songwriter Jimmy Climbs is bringing 'neon pop' to Albuquerque's music scene - Albuquerque Journal
Singer-songwriter Jimmy Climbs is bringing 'neon pop' to Albuquerque's music scene Albuquerque Journal
Make-A-Wish child uses wish to develop music therapy program at Springfield’s Mercy children’s hospital - KY3
Make-A-Wish child uses wish to develop music therapy program at Springfield’s Mercy children’s hospital KY3
Ragamala, An All-Night Show Of Indian Classical Music, Comes Downtown This Weekend - Block Club Chicago
Ragamala, An All-Night Show Of Indian Classical Music, Comes Downtown This Weekend Block Club Chicago
Rosalía sounds like the future of pop music The Washington Post
P-R Music Review: New Blackpink album fails to break pop music mold Plattsburgh Press Republican
Six Books That Music Lovers Should Read The Atlantic
Milton Nascimento says goodbye to the stage, but 'never to the music' The Washington Post
Grace Music Dept. Founder Accused Of Sexual Abuse Times-Union Newspaper
Morris: Indiana, the home of good, eclectic music Greenfield Daily Reporter
Arts Briefs: 'One Act Play' continues, Holiday Concert rehearsals, Live music in the valley – Methow Valley News - Methow Valley News
Arts Briefs: 'One Act Play' continues, Holiday Concert rehearsals, Live music in the valley – Methow Valley News Methow Valley News
UVM Duo Retells Classic Fairy Tales with New Visuals and Music The University of Vermont
Jake Blount on his Afrofuturist folk climate eulogy: ‘What would music sound like when we’re dead?’ - The Guardian
Jake Blount on his Afrofuturist folk climate eulogy: ‘What would music sound like when we’re dead?’ The Guardian
The day the music died Coeur d'Alene Press
Morehead State's traditional music returns to IBMA | News | thetrailblazeronline.net - The Trail Blazer
Morehead State's traditional music returns to IBMA | News | thetrailblazeronline.net The Trail Blazer
Coolio, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ Rapper, Dies at 59 The New York Times
Review | Lots of shenanigans, foot-tappin’ music in ‘The Robber Bridegroom’ Santa Cruz Sentinel
How Much Would You Pay to Hear Great Music? The New York Times
Licking Heights Middle School Wind Ensemble to perform at state music conference - The Newark Advocate
Licking Heights Middle School Wind Ensemble to perform at state music conference The Newark Advocate
New music for the equinox Point Reyes Light
Braille music RNIB
Art, Music, Food, Fun in McLean Virginia Connection Newspapers
John Adams Captures the Music of Shakespeare The New Yorker
Charli and Dixie D’Amelio on Season 2 of Their Hulu Reality Series, Transitioning From TikTok to Hollywood and Charli’s Potential Music Career - Variety
Charli and Dixie D’Amelio on Season 2 of Their Hulu Reality Series, Transitioning From TikTok to Hollywood and Charli’s Potential Music Career Variety
Kirk Franklin and Sony Music Entertainment Launch Second Season of Good Words With Kirk Franklin Today - Sony Music
Kirk Franklin and Sony Music Entertainment Launch Second Season of Good Words With Kirk Franklin Today Sony Music
Greek Festival, Alasdair Fraser, and Masters of Hawaiian Music: 8 things to do this week - OregonLive
Sept. 29-Oct. 2: Lively arts, music, shows and entertainment in and around Manchester - Manchester Ink Link
Sept. 29-Oct. 2: Lively arts, music, shows and entertainment in and around Manchester Manchester Ink Link
Avid’s Newest Pro Tools Software Release Propels Music Creativity and Productivity to New Heights for All Users - Yahoo Finance
Avid’s Newest Pro Tools Software Release Propels Music Creativity and Productivity to New Heights for All Users Yahoo Finance
Country Artist, Cowboy, & Troubadour Luke Bell Has Died at 32 Saving Country Music
The music lives on Apple
Is Old Music Killing New Music? The Atlantic
A Guide to the Dance Music on Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ The New York Times
Shazam turns 20 Apple
Pop Music's Nostalgia Obsession The Atlantic
MoFi has been using digital all along, a scandal in the audio community The Washington Post
Apple Music Apple
Capitol Records just signed a virtual artist, FN Meka. He has over 10 million followers on TikTok. - Music Business Worldwide
Capitol Records just signed a virtual artist, FN Meka. He has over 10 million followers on TikTok. Music Business Worldwide
The 100 Greatest Music Videos – Rolling Stone Rolling Stone
So You Wanna Learn How To Start a Record Label?
Well, you love music so much that you have decided you want to start a record label of your own. This can be a very exciting step and a fun one.
Making Music As A Lefty
Author Interview with Ryan Thomson, seacoast New Hampshire resident, and author of a new book advocating left handed violin playing by lefties. - Playing Violin and Fiddle Left Handed.
Six Reasons to Play New Age Piano
Here are six very good reasons to learn how to play piano in the New Age style:1. It's easy.
The Bagpipe and Its History
You may have heard that bagpipes are a Scottish invention; you may have heard that they are an Irish invention. The truth (of course) is neither one.
How To Write A Song
Did you ever wish that it was your song playing on the radio? It could be. It is not that hard once you know the formula.
ADIRONDACK versus SITKA SPRUCE
Both of these timbers make great soundboards on flat top acoustic guitars. They have had popularity at different times in history heres the story so far.
Interview With An Up And Coming Musician From Toronto
Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel.com and Bookpleasures.
Music and Healing: The Power of Meaningful Words and Music
We All Have a Favorite Piece of Music that Moves Us to a Special Place in Our Hearts. A Conversion About the Music We Love and How It Colors Our Lives.
Play Piano As Fast As Possible!
One of the rules of practicing we all hear over and over is "Be sure to practice slowly." (I'm guilty of this too!) Often the result of this is a feeling of inhibition, which leads to tedium.
An Interview with Angus Young of ACDC - Why He Plays a Gibson SG
Steven:Maybe more than any other guitarist ever, you're inextricably linked to the Gibson SG? What was the evolution that brought you to this particular instrument?Angus:I started playing on banjos and re-strung them up with six strings. [But] an acoustic guitar, an old bang up little ten-dollar job, that was probably the first thing I started playing on.
Hip Hop History
Rap music originated as a cross-cultural product. Most of its important early practitioners-including Kool Herc, D.
How Has Eminem Risen to the Top?
How is it that a little white boy from Kansas City has becomethe most well known rapper in the world? Starting from nothingand eventually moving up to a multi-millionaire, Eminem over thepast seven years has been in the eye of the public everywhereyou look. He has essentially entered a black man's business andgone to the top over the course of a few years, but how?On October 17, 1972 Marshall Bruce Mathers III was born in St.
Creating Your Own Compositions
The idea of actually creating a complete piece of music to play frightens many students. They just don't understand how someone could come up with something, put it down on paper, and call it their own.
Writing Hit Songs
There are a lot of factors to writing a hit song. First, you should focus on writing a good song.
Composing for Dummies
When most people hear the word composer, they automatically think of classical composers like Mozart or Beethoven. This is the point where many "would be" composers freeze up because they tell themselves that their music could never be as good.
Music Mini Course: Learn The Basics Of Reading Music On A Keyboard Instrument
Welcome to the wonderful world of music. As you begin reading this Music Mini Course it is fun to realize that you are also participating in a very important cultural aspect from around the world which has been going on for centuries.
How I Compose a Piece of Music
A number of people have asked about my own methodology for creating a complete piece of music at the piano. At the risk of oversimplification, the steps are as follows:1.
How To Make a Fortune Teaching Piano (or Guitar, or Drums, or Singing, or?) To Beginners
"But I'm not in it for the money" you say.Me neither.
How to Become a World Class Expert in Just 20 Minutes a Day
Is it really possible to become an expert in some field in 20 minutes a day?When I first was exposed to the idea, I'll admit I was rather skeptical. But I heard the idea from a very wise man named Earl Nightengale whom I respected, so the idea intrigued me.
How To Play Guitar Like a Pro!
Having taught the guitar for many years, I see the majority of beginners experiencing the same problems and making the same mistakes over and over again in their quest to learn how to play guitar. It's my job to steer them through these problem areas.
|home | site map|