To Practice Or Not To Practice

This is a motivational article, which deals with the subjects of desire and dedication as it relates to the practicing guitarist(or indeed musician).

Ultimate Guitar

Only a small percentage of guitarists ever reach an advanced level of playing. Many guitarists not only believe, but accept they will never play like their heroes because of the misconception that the aforementioned 'advanced' players attained their skills as a result of their exceptional talent. Whilst there is no denying some players are naturally more talented, talent alone will not produce exceptional playing. Only understanding how to practice and doing this on a consistent, focused basis over a period of time will yield the results we all seek.

There are no short cuts unfortunately. But don't be disheartened just yet. The journey to becoming an exceptional player does not have to be a boring, tedious one. Some people may think of it as an uphill struggle with a big reward at the end. However, the journey has many rewards along the way. And, indeed, the very realisation of these intermittent rewards, may just be what keeps you on track!

In the beginning, everything seems unnatural and this is normal. To sound clich, Rome wasn't built in a day. But, as time passes, and your playing gets better, you will notice the difference. You will start to feel the confidence and authority in your hands, and this will shine through in your playing. No longer will your entire focus be on what your fingers are doing, but rather what the music inside you is telling them to do. The ongoing construction of the bridge between your inner music and your fingers has begun!

The key to becoming a great player is in goal setting and effective time management. You must learn to efficiently use whatever practice time you have and have clear, well thought goals and you must write these down. I can't stress enough the importance of having these written down. And have this piece of paper where you can see it each time when you practice. In your practice log or on your wall. Just make sure its visible so you always remember what these goals are and this will help you work harder to achieve them.

Effective practising is where most players fail. They spend their 'practice' time playing instead of actually practising. Let me explain. When we practice, we are ingraining repeated motions into our muscle memory, we are focused on eliminating any and all tension, we are scrutinizing each little movement of our hands and fingers and a whole bunch of other things which could easily constitute another article. When we are playing however, we are doing just that...playing. Going over our favourite songs, jamming along to our favourite CDs etc. The first step to becoming a better guitarist is realising the difference between the two. Think about that for a second. Do you understand the difference? Once you do, there is one final hurdle between you and the journey to becoming the player you want to be.


Are you dedicated? Are you going to manifest your dreams? Or will it forever remain just that...a dream? A large number of players simply don't have the patience to put in the hours to not see immediate results. These are the players who will constantly be frustrated with their playing and yet will never embody their desire to become a great player. These are the same people who say, Oh, I just don't have the natural ability to become a great player, or I don't have it in me to be a great player. These people are try'ers, not do'ers.

There is another group of players who seem to make good progress in the early stages and then, further down the line, they believe or are led to believe by others, that they are in possession of natural talent, thus rendering the need to practice obsolete. Whether these players possess natural talent or not, they will never come to harness the potential they possess as long as they hold these beliefs.

Once you start to truly believe you can achieve your own goals as a player, there is nothing holding you back. You CAN do it. It CAN be done. After all, in a couple of years time, would you rather be ripping on the guitar or would you rather be ripped up inside because you wasted all that time dreaming? We both know the answer. So what are you waiting for?

Copyright 2008 Andy Mclaughlan

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Good article...I was starting to be one of those 'I can skip practice, I'm good enough' but you're absolutely right...I need to practice more...thx for the article...
    Great article. Practice your weaknesses! That can't be stressed enough.
    I can actually notice the difference when I come back to practice after a day or two off, it's like my fingers don't synch up with my brain right. PRACTICE EVERY DAY FOR AN HOUR!!! And agreed, practice your weaknesses, for sure, don't just play easy stuff, try on some hard stuff for sure, even if you don't get it, it will assist you in other songs.
    this article is really true and it trully applies to me. i was wondering if the writer of the article could help me out... you mentioned above that we have to define the difference between playing and practicing right? based on your explanation, im merely playing. i just play to my favorite song etc... as much as i want to get better and be at this "practicing" phase, i have no idea what practices or exercises i should do to improve. thats pretty much why im stuck, i dont have anyone to tell me what i should be learning to be a better player
    Well what are your goals? Do you want to play fast picking every note? Or become a great sweep picker? Or work on your legato? Whatever you want to get better at, get out the metronome and practice the things you are having problems with. Make sure you are eliminating tesnion and slowing everything down until its perfect and gradually increase the speed. There are exercises all over the net for picking and sweeping and legato and tapping...or whatever. But its also good to create your own exercises based on what you are struggling with most. Also find time to be practicing improvisation and music theory and learning the notes of the fretboard etc. Check out this article by Tom Hess .That deals with how to use your practice time.
    wow i really apologize, im really stupid when it comes to those technical music terms T_T but basically the stuff i wanna be good at would be acoustic (J.Mayer, D.Matthews, etc) as well as rock music that has also entails shredding. im not sure if you consider this musician to be greats, but one of those whose sounds i really idolize would be mark tremonti's. i also wanna be able to play songs by alot of other metal bands such as killswitch to name one. i also wanna be able to play Mr. Big songs care of the great Paul Gilbert. Finally the ones whose music i love as well are J.Satriani, J.Petrucci. basically that... sorry if its sounds dumb T_T i dont really know how to phrase myself nor do i have time to find a teacher. people i meet have told me practice pentatonic scales etc. but i dont know how to apply its theory... ive been on a real slump these past few years pls be patient with me sir
    lol i practice 5 days a week too metronome suck! jimi hendrix didnt even had a metronome
    jimi hendrix wasnt exactly the most technical player though. If you want to play fast you need to have some sort of timekeeper, be it a metronome or a drum machine. I dont agree you should constantly practice everything slow. That should be a major part of your practice but there should also be elements of practicing in bursts whereby you are playing as fast as you can trying to stay loose. This breaks the mental glass ceiling that constantly practicing slow brings and gives your brain new 'ideas' about how fast you can play