Approach to Practice
Approach to Practice
For a beginner, learning to play guitar can be challenging and probably frustrating. It’s usually about 3-6 months before things begin to seem less difficult. The importance of practice cannot be stressed enough. The student is the one in the driver’s seat. If they practice, they will move ahead, if they don’t, they won’t.
For a student who is not practicing the cycle of frustration begins. They come to their lesson unprepared and cannot progress. What is the teacher going to do about it? The only thing he can do…send the student home to practice. Not practicing really stops everything…even when there’s a lot of potential.In the beginning, a ½ an hour a day of practice should be plenty. About 20 minutes of that spent on exercises related to reading music. Then 10-15 minutes on chord exercises and little songs that work on those chords. Daily consistency is the important thing. Cramming for a couple of hours and skipping days at a time is just no good.
It’s important to be focused during practice and to set goals. It’s ok to pick up the guitar and do some mindless noodling, however, if that’s all that’s done, little progress will be made. Warm up by reviewing existing material, followed by looking at the new material given by the instructor. This could include a new technique, a new chord exercise or piece. A particular section of a piece may be difficult…isolate it, slow it down and work on it. Then try the whole piece again. That would be a productive practice. Far better than spending a ½ hour going through everything once, without addressing anything.
For intermediate and advanced students there’s a lot of grey area. Based on personal goals, practice and study becomes much more individual …for example, are they planning to study music in CEGEP or university? Are they interested in a particular genre of music?
When doing scale studies and other material, a metronome can help a student improve timing and increase tempo. Certainly, it need not be used all the time; however, it can be helpful when working through a difficult spot. Also, some things that don’t seem that natural during the learning process can be achieved much easier using a metronome. It’s a good tool.
For many students at the intermediate and advanced levels, jam tracks are used during lessons, and their use is also encouraged for practice sessions.
Jam tracks are accompaniment tracks consisting of drums, bass, sometimes keyboards and rhythm guitar…what’s left out is the lead guitar. Students play over the track and experiment with the principals which they have been learning.
Jam Tracks are a fantastic and fun learning tool. It’s like playing with a band. They bridge the gap by practicing scale tones with chord patterns or songs. It puts students in a musical environment where they begin to learn improvisation. This can be recorded and listened to so that students can hear what they’ve done, what they liked, and what they didn’t. It’s extremely educational, and teaches invaluable listening skills, where playing guitar becomes part of the big musical picture. This couldn’t happen if one only practiced alone without accompaniment.
On “getting stuck”
Sometimes students feel they have reached a plateau…they’ve arrived at a point where they seem to be lingering for a long time. It happens to everyone and it can be almost profound. So the student will hopefully continue to practice, practice, practice…and after a while, realize they’ve actually gone through another door. It may not have been noticed because with serious study and practice, one can lose themselves and not necessarily realize their own progress.
Lastly, most people choose to play guitar because they love the instrument. Time spent in practicing guitar can be often enjoyable, and at times challenging and frustrating. Toughing it out a little bit is necessary in order to acquire the tools needed to play, but hopefully there’s room along the way to have some fun too.
A personal question to Kim
Do you still practice?
If I come up with something that motivates me, a series of chord changes or a nice rhythmic idea, I may to want to go into the studio to build on it, or record it. It’s more writing and playing I suppose.
I may have a gig and want to limber up, so I’ll go put on a jam track, just to make sure I’m on top of my chops and everything is good.
If I’ve been hired to play a genre of music I’m not very familiar with, I’ll spend some time preparing for that.
Lesson preparation for more advanced students often involves having to learn new songs and plan how to present material in a way that it will be understood.
Also, scale practice, to make sure I’ve got them happening.
These are all different kinds of practice.., but is still practice. Between gigging, and teaching I play many hours a day. Playing an instrument is a life long quest and I still consider myself a student on that journey.
So yes, I would say, I most definitely still practice……LOTS!!!!!!