….now go and practice

…..and go and practice. Often heard words falling from an instructors lips. What exactly does that mean?

Well the dictionary defines practice as;

to perform or do habitually or usually: to practice a strict regimen.
to follow or observe habitually or customarily: to practice one’s religion.
to exercise or pursue as a profession, art, or occupation: to practice law.
to perform or do repeatedly in order to acquire skill or proficiency: to practice the violin.
to train or drill (a person, animal, etc.) in something in order to give proficiency.
Well it is easy to form habits for practice, alas for many these are bad habits at worse and ineffective at best.
So here is a way of looking at practice that I have been using for several decades now that may help you to become more efficient and adept.
As with most things in this life, planning is the key.

“He who fails to plan, plans to fail”.

So with this in mind, I set about an made myself a schedule and charted out everything I was intending to learn. A teacher will help you with this as they should have already set off down the path you are hoping to tread and will know what is relevant to your journey. For the most part you will need to elements of technique and elements of harmonic and rhythmic understanding. In plain English, the notes in scale and chord forms and how to play them canorously.

Firstly, understand the periods of time you have set aside for practice. At my most intense, I was practicing in the region of 8 hours a day. This wasn’t solidly and without break. My time was broken down in to bite sized practice zones. I am aware that my personal attention span hovers around the 8 minute mark. This will fluctuate dependant upon temperature, lighting, environment and motivation. Knowing this allows me to divide my time effectively. How will you know your times? Experience will be the biggest factor, but to start with give yourself 5 mins. Have a timing device, many apps are available for such things. Set the timer for 5 mins, start an exercise and see if you are still concentrating at the end. If your concentration lapses before the 5 mins expires, see what the time elapsed is at that point. This will give you a good indication as where your attention span is at present.

With this now understood, we move on to the areas of practice.

I generally have 6 areas.

  • Chords
  • Scales
  • Rhythms
  • Single note Study
  • Improvisation
  • Reading
For the purposes of this I am going to be practicing over a 1 hour duration.
I divide my hour by 6. That gives me 10 minute blocks. I am going to practice for 7 minutes at a time and give myself a 3 minute interval between each section. This gap is important. It allows you to prepare the next set of materials, have a sip of water/tea/absinthe and reset your timer.
I like to have all my materials to hand and ready to go. Again this harks back to preparation. If at this point you are thinking this is all a bit of a fuss, well possibly you aren’t as determined as I was to improve. As my role here is to educate and show how to improve, this is what I am doing. The motivation has to come from you.
It is important to find somewhere to practice where you are unlikely to be disturbed or distracted, unlike myself whilst writing this article, where I have had my partner trying to retype sections everytime I take a break.
For each of the chord and scale based sections I would randomly choose a key for the day. This was done by having 12 flashcards for each of the keys. I would randomly select one and that would be the key I would practice in for that day. This stops the propensity to only practice in your favourite key.
So lets take a run through to see how this all might pan out.
Key of day is F#
  • So firstly I take 7 minutes to play through F# chord types using the CAGED system.
So Major, minor, Major 7, Minor 7, Dominant 7, Min7b5, Diminished7 in every position available. These are played as fluent and cleanly as possible often to a metronome to insure changes are made in time. Once the 7 minutes has elapsed I stop. I make a note of how much I have done and then move onto the next section. Even if I was really enjoying myself I still stop. I can always come back at the end and do some more.
  • Next up are the scales for F#.

Pentatonic minor, Pentatonic major, Blues, Major, Natural Minor, and off through the modes.

Again these are done to a metronome, ascending and descending and as clean and fluently as possible.
7 minutes elapses and on I move to the rhythm section.
  • The Rhythm section for me is some chord progressions and changing between the chords in various real situations. These can be exercises I have prepared or actual tunes.
  • The Single note section is a technical set of exercises or solo’s /licks to learn.
  • Improvisation is where I play over a backing track/chord/drum pattern and try to use the previous bits of practice to make music on the spot.
  • Reading, is as the name suggests, reading music, my time with the dots.

So each of these have taken up 7 minutes of my time. I have worked through the material I have prepared for each and have made a note as to how far I have completed the task, and at what tempos. I keep hold of this record as it allows me to know where to continue on from so as not to keep repeating the same material over and over. Also it works well for having a look back over a couple of months to see the progression.

Here are some of the chords as diagrams to demonstrate the process that you can go through with 3 types of chords in 5 shapes.


~ by Geoff Lea Guitar on May 17, 2011.

8 Responses to “….now go and practice”

  1. Oh, this sounds familiar … I think, therefore I rock: http://wp.me/p16t7v-5X

  2. Well they both mention practice, but I don’t mention zen or having a shave once 😉

  3. Well, I can’t answer for the state of your chin, now the state of your chi … but parts 2 & 3 …

  4. Not so much Chi as the power of now these days

  5. ooh, harsh! Just ‘cos I’m an old-timer, mister ‘spring chicken’ … (that and I can’t spell nor …)

  6. The power of Now..by Eckhart Tolle, and associated literature. Something I have read a lot of. Some concepts take some thinking about as with all Chi/Zen derived ideas

  7. Ah, I see … I think I was taking the michael back then – the principles still hold, however …

  8. Reblogged this on Geoffleaguitar's Blog and commented:


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