Tips For Practicing

Yeah yeah, it?s been covered before? The Lost Art of Practicing. But there really is a fair bit of truth behind it, and hopefully this column will give you new ideas on how to go about it, or maybe just motivate you a little.

You?ve heard it before, use a metronome. And to be honest, I was one of those who didn?t accept it, and struggled on on my own. It wasn?t until I joined my high school Jazz Band, and my band teacher would tell me every song to stop dragging that I tried to do something about it. I asked him how I could learn to keep the groove, and he told me to use a metronome. I tried it, and it works.
When you play live, your nervousness and excitement often contribute to you playing faster than usual. So if you only ever plan on playing live, go for it, forget the metronome. If however, you plan on recording sometime in your life, a metronome is a necessity. If you can?t lay down tracks that are perfectly on time, it?s your money you?re wasting.

You ought to practice what you?re planning on doing. If you want to play live for people, go out and practice playing live. Organize gigs every chance you can, do anything to get out there and play for people. There?s no way to get over stage fright without being out there, on stage, in front of everyone. If you?re planning on recording, ask some friend if you can use their recording studio. Practice laying down parts with a click track, practice mixing, practice anything that you think you?re going to do.
If you join a band and plan on improvising solos, go out and improvise. Pull your band together and organize jam sessions, everyone taking a solo.
You have to practice what you?re going to be doing.

You should also practice techniques and chops. If you go out there and plan to make up solos, you have to have a base down to build upon. If you don?t know any scales, what are you planning on playing? I mean, go for it, and play random notes, and hope they fit, but if you already know what notes will sound good, then you won?t sound like that idiot who didn?t practice their scales.

Practice in front of a full-length mirror. This will always help. You can check out your posture (holy crap, I play with my shoulder up past my ear). You can check out your facial expressions (yep, you got a big goofy grin, with a look of utter concentration). You can check out what you?re wearing. Heck, you can even feel good about yourself rocking out. You get a feel for what everyone else sees when you perform. If you don?t like the way you look, you can change it.

Practicing without out purpose is? well? purposeless. You ought to have a goal in mind when you pull out your guitar. Decide whether you want to practice scales, or rhythm, or improvisation (often known as noodling . I strongly recommend you write down your goals, and your progress in some kind of journal. It helps you see how far you get, it helps to keep you somewhat motivated, it?s useful to write down new riffs or ideas, and it really doesn?t take long? Take a minute everyday, and organize your practice time.

Another thing about goals? they should generally be realistic. But after having said that, don?t be afraid to make unrealistic goals. And stick to them. (I will play so much today, that my fingers will bleed) As performers, our purpose is to entertain. Sure, set goals for increasing speed or whatever, but also set goals for showmanship. (I will learn to breakdance with my guitar, I will learn to do back flips into the crowd). Set really unrealistic goals (I will practice until I can play faster than Yngwie Malmsteem) and stick to them. Ask Yngwie for an interview, and then shred the crap out of him. If you?re setting goals, you need the motivation to go on and carry them out. Set goals with your friends (whoever can play the TNT solo better (based on a 3rd observer?s view) by next Saturday gets a free meal from the other one). Seriously though, goals are important.

If you plan on practicing, I see 2 things you will need. Motivation, Perseverance. There?s probably more, but hey, you can put them in the comments at the bottom.

While it?s awesome fun to pick up your guitar and just strum away for a bit, real practicing often doesn?t inspire you. Find some way to motivate yourself to practice. This could be rewards for yourself after you achieve goals (When I can play an A Phrygian scale in 3 octaves in under 30 seconds, I will allow myself to go out with my girlfriend again), or it could be setting goals with other people, so that the person who achieves the goal first wins a prize.
If you have no perseverance, practicing will never get you anywhere. If you practice with a metronome once, and then decide you really don?t like it, and give up, you?re never going anywhere. Sticking with it, though hard at times, will make you into a better guitar player. I find that when it?s nigh on impossible to keep going, I break my practice time in to 10 minutes slots. This really isn?t enough time to get sick of what you?re doing, and it ends up leaving me wanting more. I started doing this in the morning before school, just playing for 10 minutes, and I found it left me all day wanting a guitar to play on. I would come back afterwards, raring to go. (if you do this at night, you will end up losing sleep. I find myself at 2 o?clock, trying to put my guitar down)

If you really plan on getting anywhere with your guitar, practice is a necessity. It requires hard work, but don?t give up. Your time really is spent better playing guitar than watching television.

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

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