Everyone says practice makes perfect, but believe it or not some practice habits are better than others. If you are going to put time and effort into something wouldn’t you want maximum use out of it? I am going to share some of my experiences with you that have helped me achieve the best results when I practice guitar scales. I will also discuss how you can start applying these principles to your practice.
My first recommendation is to prepare. If you sit down without knowing what you want to practice you are wasting time. When you finally decide you will practice example number 5 out of book blah you then have to find it and set it up. Yeah those 30 seconds adds up over 50 years. Save time by preparing for your practice. I suggest that you put together a playlist of songs you want to transcribe and put them on a CD. This way you have around 12 songs that you want to transcribe on 1 CD. There is no need to switch CDs every time you want to hear a different song.
My second Recommendation is to stay focused. I use to have a problem with getting off track and I would start doodling around. I have found that when I start jamming out I end up wasting time that I would have use for something more productive. Getting sidetracked also causes you to lose concentration.
My third Recommendation is to spend the time to master it. Steve Vai claims he would spend an hour doing one thing such as vibrato for an hour. He claims that when you do it for an hour concentrating deeply on that 1 technique you will find new ways to approach it. I am not saying that you need to do this, but spend time with stuff you learn. Something I do when I play an Etude is I require myself to play a section perfectly 20 times before I move on to a new section.
My Fourth Recommendation is to repeat what you learn every day. Say you learn a new scale. I suggest you review it every day. Review it over and over. The longer period of time you review it every day the stronger memory it will be. Of course, you will be constantly learning new ideas so you don’t need to review it forever. You can choose a week or 2 to review it every day. This can a valuable tool to use with scales, songs, chords or anything new to you. Keep reviewing it.
My Fifth recommendation for enhancing your practice is to take breaks. There are researchers out there that claim you don’t retain nearly as much information after a certain period of time. This time period varies depending on the researcher, but it is good to remember. What I suggest is separating your practice into sections. Spend a little time practicing your scales then take a break, come back and practice your etude, take a break then come back and transcribe.
My last piece of advice is to enjoy what you are practicing. Even if you don’t really enjoy it, pretend you do. People learn something that they like much easier than they learn something they dislike. If music is not fun, then make it fun. This is the best way to maximize your practice time.
How to do you apply all of these tips? Well I would pick one of them and apply it. Once you feel comfortable with your change then add a new change. Remember, not everyone is exactly the same. We are all different and we will find different things work for different people. Take this advice; make it your own knowledge.