So you’ve decided to learn guitar, or you’ve decided to improve on your abilities. You know practice is important because practice makes you better, but you aren’t satisfied with the results you are seeing from following your instructional DVDs or sitting on the edge of your bed playing the same hard rock riff over and over. Effective practice nets serious results, but it requires some discipline. Before you get discouraged, try developing some simple habits to help get more results from your practice time.
Limit the variables Practicing is basically a method for re-wiring your brain to perform a specific task more efficiently. Your goal is to play guitar better, so the purpose of your practicing is to train your brain to retain and recall guitar-related knowledge and physical skills more efficiently. Using basic psychology, we can tilt the odds in our favor by simply limiting the other information our brain is taking in while we practice. Consider things like turning off your T.V. while you practice, or not practicing when you are exhausted or hungry. If your concentration is divided between distractions and practicing, your brain isn’t efficiently learning and therefore won’t efficiently perform the tasks you are practicing later. Cut out distractions and set yourself up for success by keeping as many variables the same for every practice session. Consider these:
- Who is with you when you practice? If you always practice alone, having someone else in the room for today’s practice session will effect your performance.
- What are you practicing? Is there at least some connection between what you are practicing now and what you practiced yesterday? There should be at least some of the same materials from one session to the next for continuity.
- Where are you practicing? Do you have a space you use every time? You should! And it should be well lit, comfortable, and free of distractions. Changing locations frequently adds to the extra information your brain is subconsciously processing while you practice.
- When do you practice? Maintaining a regular routine helps eliminate other subconscious variables from your practice sessions. Find a couple times each day that work with your schedule and keep a routine of short, regular practice sessions.
- Why are you practicing? Have a goal – however simple it may be. Whether it’s playing a song for a friend’s wedding or just getting one more technique under your command, having a specific purpose for practicing helps with motivation.
- How do you practice? This is a combination of all the other variables mentioned here and more, and will be discussed in a future post at length!
Much science and research has been dedicated to the subjects of studying and practicing techniques. Your ultimate goal should be to keep as many things about your practice routine the same from session to session. Given the limitation of variables, and enough time, you will see results from your practice sessions! Now go GuitPickin’!