Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On practicing...

Me: Have you practiced this week?
Six year old student: "No, I've been so busy."

Ahh, the dreaded subject of practicing.

Here's the definition by the Rock 'n Roll dictionary:

prac·tice /ˈpræktɪs/ , verb, -ticed, -tic·ing.
1. form of medieval torture, esp. by scales
habit; custom: It is the practice for musicians to be idolized.
repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency: Practice makes perfect.
4. the preferred method of killing music students.

So, we see it's a rather mixed bag. Sure, we're glad that people buy into the practice of idolizing us rock stars, or even beginning guitar players, but we're not sure about this "death by harmonic minor scale" bit.

How should you practice, and how often?

The short answer: It's different for everyone. (Read: I don't know.)

And now for the long answer.

I've been searching for the "silver bullet" that will assure me fame, fortune, and a really nice signature guitar. I'm guessing it has something to do with the perfect practice routine. However, while I haven't found that bullet, I have found grains of silver, from all over, and here they are.

Josh Urban's self contradicting guidelines for practicing

1. It should be joyful.

2. It should be productive.

3. And therefore, you should practice to your weakness.

4. It should be focused. 20-30 minutes on a single subject seems to work well.

5. It should be daily, if at all possible.

6. It should involve a metronome.

A few further thoughts...

How long to practice? That depends on your schedule, dedication, and mental endurance!
And just like everything else, there's quite a spectrum of application in the guitar world.

Steve Vai has a reputation for sometimes practicing 10 hours a day, while Eddie Van Halen has been quoted as saying "I never practice, I just play."

What's my philosophy?

Borrowing heavily from the musical values of my guitar mentor, Joe Palchak, I split my practice routine into 30 minute sections. The first half hour I might work on picking, the second, legato technique, and so on. Again, a daily routine is preferred.

I strive to make an important distinction between practicing and jamming.
I want to do both, but not at the same time. For me, there's nothing as boring as hearing someone practice while they're supposed to be rockin' out, and doing the opposite is, for me, counterproductive. Again, this is just what works for me. Eddie can rock out for his practice
routine, and he's playing the Verizon Center, so....Figure out what works for you, and do it.

The bit about the metronome. Vital. Do it. If you don't have one, buy one. It's about the same price as a lesson, and well, way more worth it. (As much as I hate to say it!) If you can't get to the music store anytime soon, you can use the website for a free "clicker."

Regardless of your playing style, you need to develop a solid sense of time. No exceptions.
Plus, a metronome is a great way to set goals, especially with speed building exercises. It's your speedometer, and you want to know how fast you can go, and what to aim for.

And, it's important to have fun while you're doing this! (For example, I need to tweak my routine a bit, because, frankly, I'm getting burned out.) Sure, you'll need to work on semi-boring material sometimes, but that can be fun in it's own way. Sort of like lifting weights. Someday, you could become the governor of California if you do good enough! And that's fun.

A great way to tell if you're involved and focused on your practice routine is if you lose track of time. This is when the quantum leaps occur, and when people get it. If you look up, and it's an hour later, or even fifteen minutes more towards tomorrow, good job.

Lastly, stay excited about music. This sounds strange, but as you learn, it can be possible to become jaded. Don't. Listen to the songs that got you into guitar. Listen to cutting edge stuff that there's no way you could play. Go to a concert. Love it. Immerse yourself in a world of music, and don't forget to sing along.



1 comment:

Sons of Avarice said...

I just read all of your posts, skipped a few paragraphs though.

I like a lot of what you had to say about music.