Monthly Archives: August 2014

Successful practising – Part 2

Hello, world, and after another customary period of absence I’ve finally decided to get round to writing part two of my feature on successful practising. Previously I talked about how often to practise, so in this part I’ll be dealing with the best way to make use of your time when you are practising.

The main point I will try to put across here will sound fairly obvious, but here goes:

Practice it correctly!

What do I mean by that, surely the whole point of practicing is to be able to play something correctly. You’re bound to play things wrong up until then aren’t you? Well, yes and no. You may remember in the previous part I mentioned the idea of muscle memory. In guitar terms, this is the idea that your fingers ‘remember’ repeated actions. What this means is that every time you play something right, your fingers get better at remembering that action, so that eventually they can do it almost on autopilot. However, every time we play something wrong, your fingers get better at playing it incorrectly! This is something I witness every day as a teacher; my students making the same mistake on the same bit of a song / exercise / scale etc, and then finding it increasingly difficult to ‘unlearn’ it in this way.

So how do you ensure you play it correctly? Easy; slow it down. Still not quite getting it? Slow it down more! This also has the added advantage of giving your fingers more time to ‘remember’ what they’re doing, which may sound like an abstract concept, but is in fact very true.

It’s also worth noting the usefulness of making sure you practice to the correct rhythm, and in particular don’t play with undue hesitation on the tricky parts. This is because, again, you end up learning the hesitation, and pausing even when you don’t really need to. Slow the whole section down enough to be able to play it at an even rhythm. Obviously a metronome can come in extremely handy here!

Obviously one could write an entire book on this topic, and I’m sure people have, but I’ll leave it there for now. This all applies to practising set ideas and songs, the approach to practising improvising would obviously be different, and I’ll deal with that in a future blog.

Bye for now!