Monthly Archives: November 2013

Successful practising – part 1

Hi all, and first of all I’d like to welcome you to my new blog.  On here I intend to share with you tidbits of advice on playing the guitar, being an active musician, or just general updates in my world.  I’d like to begin by addressing a question I’m regularly asked by my students;

“How often should I practise, and what’s the best approach to practising?”

Whilst there is obviously no simple answer to this, I would like to at least share some hopefully wise words.  In this first blog I’ll be dealing with the question of how often to practise.  Well to a certain extent it wouldn’t be entirely wrong to say “more is better”.   However, there is one important thing to realise;  it’s much better to play often but for shorter periods than rarely but for a long time.  

Why is this?  Well, there is a thing which musicians (and others) refer to as ‘muscle memory’.  In short, imagine each of your fingers had a little brain in it (David Lynch anyone?), that remembers repeated movements, and can then repeat them almost sub-consciously.  The more often you go back to a task, the quicker your fingers will learn it, but after a long sustained period the effectiveness of this is lessened.

Think about driving a car.  It’s actually quite complicated, particularly when you think of what you’re doing with the clutch and gears, as well as constantly checking mirrors and making snap decisions.  When I was learning (which was relatively recently), it took me a while to get the hang of all this, but I found that I learned much quicker by having 2 shorter lessons in a week than one big lesson.  By the end of a long lesson, my brain would be frazzled, whereas with two shorter lessons I’d spend more time feeling mentally fresh, and develop that almost subconscious way of moving between gears.  If you’re a driver, think about the last place you drove.  Did you think about what gear you were in more than once or twice (if at all).  Yet you almost certainly changed gears countless times.  This is the same for what we hope to achieve by practising the guitar; after a while that section of the solo you’ve been pulling your hair out over is suddenly a bit easier.  A few playthroughs later and you barely notice yourself playing it!  Therefore, remember the key phrase –

Little and often!

That’s all for now, I hope this has been helpful for some of you.  Next time I’ll be looking at how to hone the manner in which you practise, so that you’re making the best use of your time, and therefore getting the most out of it.  Good luck!