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3 ideas on practicing for the beginning musician

by Conor on November 14th, 2013

Here are a 3 simple ideas for practicing, that I think apply to anyone looking to improve their practice times.

But before I get there, here are two thoughts that I think should underpin every musical and creative endeavour.  First, the end goal is fun, and self-expression.  There is no arrival point with creativity, everyone has the capacity to continue to evolve.  So don’t compare yourself.  Everybody learns differently, what’s easy for some will be difficult for others.  Secondly, you’ll get out of it what you put in.  If playing an instrument is just one more thing in a gigantic heap of interests, growth will be slow.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you put a higher priority on it and put the other things aside, you’ll see improvement come much quicker.

So here are three things I would hope to see in a student who puts effort into practicing:

1 – Routine.  Carve out some time regularly during the week.  If you’re a younger student, make it part of your homework.  If you’re an adult with a busy life and kids, wait till they’re in bed and then make a point of sitting down with your instrument.  It could be daily, twice a week, or Saturday afternoons.  Having an intentional time will add structure to your progress which helps you see your growth, which encourages everyone.

2 – Focus.  If you’re taking lessons, make sure your teacher has clearly outlined what you should be working on throughout the week.  If you’re a self starter scouring Youtube for new guitar ideas, pick one thing.  Remember you’ll never know it all so you might as well get good at that one thing that’s grabbed your attention.  Having a clear idea of your goals ties into your structure.  If you can articulate what it is that you want to learn, you’ll know how to get there and  when you get there.

3 – Duration.  Our bodies and brains get tired out.  This is especially true when it comes to learning something new physically.  Playing a musical instrument isn’t the most natural thing for our bodies to do, and as such, it can be a mentally and physically exhausting thing to learn to play a new chord, rhythm or melodic passage to a song.  I don’t know how many times I’ve frustrated myself learning something new only to put the guitar down, do something else, and come back to it later realizing what was driving me crazy now doesn’t seem so hard.  So rather than force yourself to stick to some arbitrary time frame, think more in terms of going over the one thing you’ve set in front of yourself two or three times in a practice session.

Hope this helps.  In the future I’ll unpack some of these ideas further as well as get into some of the things I’ve discovered that will help people a little further down the musical road.

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