The title of this post may sound like common sense to most readers of this blog, but I believe it is a statement that needs unpacking. Whether you have played guitar (or any instrument) for a while, or are just beginning your journey, the concept of practice is central to your success. The importance of quality practice cannot be overstated; however, the idea that any amount of “practice makes perfect” is an overstatement. Worse yet, it can be a dangerous notion. Let’s dig in…

Quality Practice? Any time you spend with your instrument can be positive to your development as a guitarist, but not all practice is created equal. Dedicate a specific amount of time at regular intervals when you can focus on your instrument without distraction. During these times, target a specific technique or piece of music to work on and don’t let other meandering musical thoughts interrupt you. Know your limits – keep your dedicated practice times to a length your attention span and abilities can handle. Then, allow plenty of other time with your instrument when you can relax and meander through all the other material your heart desires. Focus on specific tasks for specific amounts of time.

Identify, Isolate, Rectify, Repeat One very effective tool for maximizing return on time investment in your quality practice sessions is the cycle of figuring out specifically where you are making mistakes in a piece of music or with a technique, then working only on that problem spot repetitively until it is fixed before moving on. I plan to go into this concept deeper in a future post, but for now – learn the mantra and chant with me: Identify, Isolate, Rectify, Repeat…

What is better than being perfect? No matter how hard you practice, you cannot attain perfection. Professional musicians still make mistakes playing live gigs. Artists record dozens of takes in order to find the best combination of pieces of each to use in final version of a song. And accidents happen in performance and in practice. So, please do yourself a favor and don’t set your sights on perfection. The truth is that perfection is a unicorn. A mythical creature you only think you’ve seen or heard and yet you can’t really describe it. You have no evidence it exists – a mere figment of your imagination. Here are some real, evidence based, truths: You will play better if you practice regularly. You will progress as a musician, you will become more confident, and you will perform with more artistic integrity and you will enjoy the process much more if you set your sights on being better and not on being perfect.

So what are you waiting for? Go practice! Just remember to plan ahead, be intentional about your goals, chant the mantra, eat a healthy breakfast, get enough sleep, avoid unicorns…

Now go GuitPickin’!

– J.D.

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