Moving Ahead In Your Practice Session

4 tips to get you moving forward and keep you from staying still.

Ultimate Guitar
Moving Ahead In Your Practice Session
4 tips to get you moving forward and keep you from staying still:

Do Things You Can't Do Yet

This is a definite sign that you are working to move forward. It will be uncomfortable at first but so is everything else. Before you know it, that thing that was uncomfortable becomes comfortable. This is critical to your progress, practice is working on things that you aren't very good at yet. If you are doing things you are good at already, you are rehearsing. Your comfort zone has to be broken. You can always come back to the things you already know but if you don't break through the rut of doing things you're not good at yet, you will not see progress as fast as you would like. Practicing things you are good at will not move you forward, it will simply make you better at that one thing you are working on.

Goals, Goals, and More Goals

Suppose you haven't learned a certain scale, that can be a goal. If you've never written your goals down before, stop what you're doing right now and write your guitar goals down, then get to them. This will do wonders for your guitar playing. You will be able to see what you want to accomplish clearly, and there is power in clarity. The brain releases endorphins after you have completed even the smallest things including small goals. You'll feel good, and you'll feel like you've moved ahead with your skills after you start working towards your written goals. When you start to practice, have this new goal in mind and envision yourself already doing it. Figure out what you need to do in every area of your guitar playing: chords, scales, techniques, etc., and move forward. Keep yourself from staying stagnant. There is always excitement when you challenge yourself to new goals. Jim Rohn said, "Goals will get you through the winters of your life." I'd like to add that they will also get you through those challenging phases of your guitar playing. Challenge yourself today. Try to get faster at your sequences or tremolo picking or whatever it is that you feel you're not good at yet. Add some techniques into your goal list and implement them into one of your songs. Do this right away, don't wait. Brian Tracy, a master at achieving goals says to write your goals down on a piece of paper and then under them write 3 things you can do to get there. Write them in the first person as if they are already yours. For example, "I rip through my scales at 800npm, I sweep arpeggios in any given key, or I have vibrato mastered." This will help you get focused on what you need to do to get there. You don't need to broadcast your goals to the world, keep them for yourself. If you work towards them every day, you will soon be in places you never thought you could be.

Add Techniques To Your Arsenal

When you consistently practice different techniques all the time your options start to grow. In the book "The War Of Art", it says "The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back." In other words, the more you work on your technique, the better the ideas will be that come out of you when you're inspired. Once you have certain techniques mastered they will start to come out on their own when you are noodling around or trying to come up with something cool. Build your arsenal and keep at it.

Here is a suggestion: when you sit down to practice, have a metronome out or a drum machine. You can find these online for free if you are just starting out or if you don't have one yet. Have your lessons in front of you. You can open up the pdf files you want to work on if you have lessons on your computer or you can print them out. I have a folder of all the exercises and lessons that I want to get better at, right on my desktop. It's good to practice several different things in one session versus spending all your time on one thing. In this way you can progress much faster as a player. For example, you should warm up, you should include time for, chords, songs, scales, songwriting, vibrato, tapping, sweeping etc., based on what your goals are. This does not mean you should do all of these things in your session it simply means to do more than one. Your goals are simply what you want to be able to accomplish on the guitar and what you want to get better at. Goals are one of the most important things you can invest your time into. Write some down, nail them to the wall and then try to reach them. When you do, write some bigger ones down.

Fire Yourself Up

Being fired up can make all the difference in the world so do what you gotta do to get into that mental state. If you need to go the gym first then go, if you need to belt out a few songs first then do that, if you need to have a cup of coffee, talk to your significant other, hang with your kids, or anyone that inspires you, then do it. If you need to blast some your favorite band at high volumes then do it. You end up playing much better after you've heard the artists who inspire you to do their thing. In order to get fully fired up, you have to fuel your mind with things that move you. Affirmations work for some, sex works for many, and a simple cup of coffee works for others, do what you need to do and crank it up. For me, watching a masterclass by a virtuoso player always does the trick.

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About author:
I am a solo artist and guitar teacher. I teach guitar lessons in the Miami, Fl area and if you would like to know more about music and playing guitar you can visit my site above.

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25 comments sorted by best / new / date

    The first tip is really crucial, I see many players ignore it, and they "practice" for hours but never really move forward, because their "practice" contains only jamming around with some random Nirvana or Metallica riffs with some rhcp solos they have picked up somewhere down the road...
    I think we're all guilty of doing that at some point. A lot of the time when we can't learn something we get discouraged and go back to playing something we know, you just have to push yourself. You're not going to be able to play something perfect the first time you play it, or even the 10th time. There's nothing wrong with playing stuff you're comfortable playing, but always push yourself to do more. All the great guitarists didn't get that great by playing the same riffs time and time again. They were always learning and pushing themselves.
    Its true, I remember a year ago, I looked at some tabs for Yngwie Malmsteen's Far Beyond The Sun, and my first reaction was "Fuck that!" But after I seriously sat down and tried to learn it, I've nearly nailed the song as well as adding my own technique and improvisations....that Yngwie wouldn't approve of. Teehee
    I think a good thing to add to that is that even when you are playing some Nirvana or RHCP riffs, try not to play it the exact same way twice. Keep making yourself find new ways to do things and new stuff to add.
    I am a little bit surprised at how relevant these ideas are. I think number 2 is the most important, though.
    All tips I already live by. Although im guilty of breaking every last one.. I think I just needed a pro to tell me and give that kick in the ass. The first one I break all the time but no more!
    Another +1 for the first tip. Last year I took the plunge to learn the solo to Obscura's Orbital Elements and my technique improved dramatically. Doing things that make you uncomfortable pretty much applies to improving anything in your life.
    SERIOUS applause for this lesson. "Building up the arsenal" puts it in perspective for music writing and conceptualizing the nonsense in my head into a formidable army to conquer over my Resistance. The fact you noted "The War of Art" here is great. That book helps a ton.
    This is easily the best article I've read on this website, thank you for posting it.
    Very good advice. Keeps me focused on what I don't yet know and enables me to work on those things. A++
    I love the idea of writing down your goals. I just did that and hopefully it will move me forward further. Thanks!
    It definitely will. Keep looking at them and revising them as you need to and you'll see how you reach them. This has been proven over and over. Some will take longer but keep at it. Thanks for all your comments to everyone who posted on this article. I appreciate it all. Thank you
    Great article. But I'd love to see other's lists and practice schedules. I know every individual is different. I would like to consider some schedules and tweak it to my own needs. But can't find much online. Only a lot of articles similar to this that explains the theory to practice - I wnt the practical!
    Thats a good idea. I think I'll start an article on it. For now you can make a list of what you want to be able to do, write it down and spend time on each one. For example, chords, scales, improv...etc.
    Cheers for all of this I really need to get my shit together lol I'm playing about 16months but I doddle too much I let my head get the better of me and get detoured in the end I end up with fractions of what you would call practice I practice everyday but it can be overwhelming trying to make up for lost years
    Nailed it. When I was in the 10th standard. I started practising on an insanely hard song at that time (Cruelty Incarnate by Psycroptic) and it took me 3 monts to get the whole thing down. But by the end of it, I had improved tremendously. And in #3, sometimes thinking about a local guitarist or musician who is better than you (the eye of jealousy) helps if you can manipulate it the right way.
    Really good tips, thank you. I like what you said about, if you are playing something you know; you are rehearsing. I never really looked at it in that way, this article has really helped...