New Spires album update

Once again, things are extremely busy on the band front at the moment, but still teaching as normal. I’m currently recording the last few vocal parts for the new album, entitled ‘The Whisperer’, then I’ll be mixing it, and sending it off for mastering. I’m also in the process of booking a short UK tour for November / December to promote the release, which is fairly stressful in it’s own right!

We’ve launched a crowd-funding campaign with Kickstarter where you can pre-order, to help pay for the pressing and mastering of the album, as well as a limited run of T-shirts. We’ve reached our halfway goal after just 3 days, but it’s important to keep the momentum rolling, so if you like what you hear help us out here

Also give our Facebook page a ‘Like’:

More instructional blogs, as well as some videos, coming soon!

Bye for now,

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!

Busy busy busy!

Hi all, first of all I’m very sorry for my lack of posting as of late. As any of you who follow my band Spires ( )will know, it’s been a time of upheaval and change recently, but I’m still teaching as normal.

Our old guitarist Paul Cuthbert has left to move down South and concentrate on his family life, but we have now found a replacement in Richard Corrie, who has been extremely efficient in learning the material. On top of all this, we have been recording our second full length album, and so I’ve not got a huge amount of free time at the minute, due to being the producer and engineer! Richard has almost learned all the material for the second album, so we can record his parts soon, and then it’s onto vocals, other bits and bobs, and then mixing.

There’s a lot to do, but that’s the life of a musician, it’s not all lie-ins and partying! I will be continuing with my blog once I’m a bit further in with the album. In the mean time, I’m still very busy teaching, so get in touch if you want any lessons.

Cheers, Paul

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!