Practising to Perform: Getting Yourself Ready for the Stage

Male band member sings onstage whilst playing his guitar.

Practising to Perform: Getting Yourself Ready for the Stage

One of the best parts about learning to play an instrument is the prospect of eventually getting up on stage and performing. This can happen in a variety of places, from small shows at local venues to bigger concert events like The Guitar Gym and Sono Music Performance Showcase. Anyone can get up on stage and play, but what really makes a good performance is good preparation. This article outlines how to approach practising to perform.

Male band member sings onstage whilst playing his guitar.

Song Choice

The preparation for your performance begins before you even know what you’re going to play. Song choice can make or break your performance before it even begins. You want to consider three things when deciding on your song:

  1. What your skills are
  2. Who you’re playing with
  3. Who you’re playing to

The first point almost goes without saying – you should pick songs that are at the upper end of what you can play (that way you’re showing off what you can do). But don’t pick anything that you can’t play confidently. Or at least make sure that you’ll be able to play it confidently in plenty of time before the performance. Pick a song you are confident you can nail well before show day. That way you can work on all the other aspects of preparing your performance.

Also consider your bandmates when picking a song. A song that suits you really well might be at the wrong level for your bandmates, or might be the wrong style of music for them. Think about what your bandmates can and can’t do, as well as what they do and don’t like. If in doubt, just talk it over with them!

Your target audience is also a big factor in song choice. If you’re playing at your local church, then you’ll probably want to avoid playing any black metal. That is a bit of an extreme example, but it’s definitely worth considering the age and disposition of your audience and selecting songs accordingly.

Learn the Song

It’s quite surprising how many performances fall flat on their faces because one of the band members doesn’t know the song as well as they should. Once you’ve decided on a song, start learning it right away and stick to it. Don’t keep changing songs, and don’t leave anything to the last minute. When practising to perform, internalising material works best if it is done over a longer period of time. You can’t cram for a performance. Learning the song isn’t the only part of preparing for a concert, so getting it started early gives you more time to focus on the other aspects of the performance.

Make sure to rehearse your song with the people you are playing with if you get the chance. While it is theoretically possible to get up on stage, introduce yourself to your bandmates and then pull off a convincing performance, it’s something that is best left to serious session players and jazz masters. Even if you all know the song inside out and can play it perfectly with the track, it is going to sound different when your band plays it. You won’t be able to get used to the ebb and flow of playing with humans while on your own. You also might find some eccentricities in the way your band mates perform certain parts, which may throw you off the first time you hear them. It’s best to have that happen in the practice room, rather than in front of an audience.

Get in The Zone

“The zone” can be taken literally or figuratively. When you are practising to perform, think about what the performance space is likely to look like, and think about ways that you can use that space when you are performing. Consider whether you’ll be standing up or sitting down, and make sure that you practise that way. If you spend all your practice time sitting down, you’ll have a bit of a rude shock when you go to play standing up! Try to account for every possible distraction or discomfort, and keep practising to perform your stuff until you’re sure that you’ll be able to nail the song despite all the potential problems you can think of. If you can get to the venue before your performance to check it out, then all the better!

Make sure to have at least a couple of tries playing your song in “performance mode”. Set yourself up as if you were on stage in front of people, and play as if it’s the real thing. Think about body movements, facial expressions, and how well you play the material while you’ve got these other things on your mind. You can do this with your band as well – consider who will be standing where, how you move and how you interact with each other.

Memorise

Make sure you know your stuff back-to-front. Know the song to the point where you can play it without thinking about it very much, and you’ll have a much better time on stage. You having a good time and not stressing about the song will translate into your performance, and you’ll put on a show worth remembering.

The best way to memorise a song will depend on your learning style, but there are a few techniques you can try out. The best place to start is compartmentalising the song. You will have a very hard time trying to memorise an entire song from start to finish, so divide the song into manageable chunks. You can do this in bigger sections like verses and choruses, or smaller sections like lines or phrases. Tackle each section individually, then fit them together to make the song. You will find that this approach is much more effective and much more efficient than trying to tackle the whole song from beginning to end. You can also prioritise sections depending on their difficulty.

 

There are few things more painful for an audience than a performance that is obviously underprepared. There are also few things more painful for a performer than having a song fall to pieces because it wasn’t properly rehearsed. Consider the above points when working on your songs in the lead up to your performance, and ensure that you make the event the best it can possibly be, both for yourself and for your audience.

Easy Vs Challenging

Female guitarist sits down to play an easy song, following from her tablet device.

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It’s fun to pick up the guitar and learn an easy song really quickly. The immediate reward of learning an easy song is a great feeling. Trying harder songs, however, can be daunting. When deciding which songs to bring in to your guitar lessons, by all means go for songs that you like, but don’t shy away from songs that you might think are too ambitious.

Challenge Yourself

The more you try to do things that you find hard, the easier they will get. Was the guitar easy when you first started playing? Chances are it took a while to get used to holding down the strings, holding the guitar, holding, the plectrum, and changing chords in a timely fashion. Now that you can do those things, that doesn’t mean that you should stop trying to challenge yourself with your guitar playing. If you enjoy being challenged, then this goes without saying. If you don’t enjoy a challenge, then consider this: Every challenging song that you conquer will directly lead to you finding other songs LESS challenging in the future. Think of it as a long-term investment in making things easier.

Good Things Take Time

Sure, it’s great to learn a new song in a matter of minutes and have fun playing the guitar. I’m in no way trying to discourage you from doing that. The reward of being able to confidently play a song that you struggled with in the beginning is one of the best feelings that you will get as a musician. Depending on how high you’re aiming, working on a more challenging song will take time – certainly more time than the fifteen minutes that you would spend on a simple four-chord song.

Don’t Sweat The Choice

Be a bit indiscriminate when picking a harder song. Target songs that you like – you won’t properly enjoy learning to play a song that you don’t like the sound of. Disregard any previous conceptions that you may have had about why you haven’t started learning particular songs that you like. “It’s too hard” is relative – the more time you spend on it, the less hard it will become. There may be certain techniques used in the song that you haven’t learned yet – why not learn them? Your guitar coach will be more than happy to show you the new technique and help you get to grips with it in preparation for your chosen song – your chosen song may even be a good vehicle for teaching you that technique. “I need an electric guitar for that” is only true if there’s deliberate use of a floating tremolo or other electric-only system, or if it makes frequent use of the 20th fret or higher. Even then, parts can simply be learned down the octave. Physically and stylistically, rockier songs can sound awesome on an acoustic guitar, and learning them with the higher string tension on an acoustic means that if you decide to get an electric guitar later on, you will find the thinner strings much easier to play.

Why Is It Challenging?

What is it about the song that you’ve chosen that challenges you? Is it faster than the songs that you have played in the past? Does it present difficulties for your left hand or your right hand? Are there new, more complicated chords involved? Does it use barre chords? Is there a challenging solo? Is it only available as sheet music with no TAB? Every single one of these hurdles can be overcome with work, and can be overcome in a fraction of the time with help from your guitar coach. Chances are that we even have our own resources that can help you develop any part of your guitar playing that needs to improve in order for you to reach your goals.

Monitor Your Expectations

This is without a doubt the key to success when attempting more challenging repertoire. The point of choosing challenging repertoire is that it isn’t something that you can knock over in one session. You can’t expect yourself to be able to magically start playing something after working at it for only a few minutes. Expect progress to be made gradually. No matter how little ground you feel that you’ve made in one session, remember that any progress is good progress. If you are the type of person that benefits from setting goals, then by all means do so – reaching them is a surefire way of gauging your improvement. Don’t be discouraged if certain parts of the song challenge you more than expected. If one phrase takes a couple of weeks to master, then you will be all the more proud of having mastered it when it happens.
This advice is applicable to all aspects of your guitar playing – be careful of expecting too much of yourself. Check out these articles on the Guitar Gym website: “Are You Really Too Busy To Learn The Guitar?” and “Psychology For Success: Understanding Cognitive Dissonance and How It Can Effect Your Guitar Playing. They highlight the effect of cognitive dissonance caused by not meeting your own expectations for time spent practicing or tangible improvement. Feel free to discuss this matter with your coach, as well.

Aim High

Don’t be afraid to be ambitious. If a song is extremely hard, it can still be tackled by compartmentalising and working on specific section and specific techniques. Songs can be adopted as a long-term project and worked on alongside other material – you don’t need to devote your entire practice schedule to one song until it is finished. Spend a couple of minutes from each session looking at a part of it. Steady progress will be made, and any progress is good progress.
Ultimately, learning to play harder songs is a guaranteed way to make sure that you are getting better at the guitar. Getting better means that more songs become available, songs that might have been more challenging in the past become easier, and inevitably, the guitar becomes even more fun. Take the leap and try playing a harder song.

How to Maintain Guitar Progress Over Christmas

maintain guitar progress Christmas

Beat Holiday Regression – How to Maintain Guitar Progress Over Christmas

Christmas holidays – a chance for you to relax and enjoy some much-needed time off. It’s also a chance for you to forget some things you’ve learned, and undo some of the good work you’ve done throughout the year!  How can your guitar progress possibly survive this miasma of inactivity? Check out these easy ways to help you maintain guitar progress over Christmas, and beat “Holiday Regression.”

1. Continue Your Lessons If Possible

The Guitar Gym only closes for 1-2 weeks over Christmas.  If you’re still in town, there’s no reason why you can’t come to a guitar lesson and maintain guitar progress over Christmas. If the usual after-school time doesn’t work during the holidays, just use the “Reschedule a Lesson” form on the website and find a time that works while you or your family is off school. Even if you have your lesson in the middle of the day on a different day each holiday week, you’ll still be reaping the benefits of weekly lessons without it getting in the way of you enjoying your much-needed rest and relaxation.

 

2. Stick to Your Usual Realistic Practice Schedule

If you’re still attending your weekly lesson, then you don’t need to practice any more than you did when you weren’t on holidays to maintain guitar progress over Christmas. One of the benefits of attending a weekly lesson is that you’ll continue to improve without additional practice, albeit much more slowly than with regular playing at home. Check out our article “Are You Really Too Busy To learn The Guitar?” for more on that subject.

With that said, if you usually go to school and now find yourself without schoolwork, you have way more opportunities to grab your guitar and have a play. A good way to maximise this is to leave your guitar out where you can see it and easily pick it up and play. Cutting out the set-up time will make you more efficient, and makes playing the guitar more appealing. Check out our article “8 Tips To Better Guitar Practice.”  If you go on a trip, see if you can take a guitar with you. Whether you can or not, check online for any guitar shops in your holiday destination – it can be very interesting seeing what guitars can be found in shops outside of your usual haunts.

 

3. Hang out with Your Musical Friends

Chances are that people you know play an instrument, too. Now that you have some free time, organise to hang out and play some songs. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – just play some chords together and have some fun. You’re on holidays, after all! The holidays are also an excellent opportunity to go and see some live music, with more festive events being held and you having more time to go and see them.

Go see some concerts with your musical friends and have an in-depth discussion of what you’ve seen – it’s amazing some of the things that you can pick up just by talking about music with others. Discuss some of what you see with your coach – all of the coaches at The Guitar Gym are extensively experienced in live performance, and will be able to shed some light on any questions you might have about how things are done.

 

4. Listen to Music

It sounds a bit obvious, doesn’t it – who doesn’t listen to music? Just make sure that some of your daily music interaction is active listening. Active listening means that the music is your primary focus while you’re listening to it, instead of having music as background noise while you do other things. You may be very surprised how much of your music you’ve been missing out on. Check out our article on active listening for more information on getting the most out of your music.

If your usual listening doesn’t include a lot of guitar music, maybe try to include some more guitar-centric music in your playlist. Regardless of the type of music you like, you’ll be able to find something that sounds good to you and includes a guitar. Try asking your coach for recommendations.

 

5. Don’t Feel Bad for Having a Day Off

The worst thing you can do is turn your guitar playing into a chore. If you miss some days over the holiday season, that’s totally fine. A little bit of practice during our holiday closure period will be enough to keep you improving. If you beat yourself up over every day that you don’t practice, all you’ll do is make yourself unhappy, and eventually despondent and resentful of the instrument. The old adage of “half an hour” of daily practice is a myth. Your weekly lessons are enough to keep you improving by themselves,and any extra playing you do at home is a huge bonus. Check out our article “Psychology for Success” to learn more about how your practice expectations can influence how you feel about your guitar playing.

 

Everyone celebrates the end of the year in their own way. Some take lots of time off work, some work all the way through. There are lots of ways that you can maintain guitar progress over Christmas. Ultimately, the most effective step you can take to preserve your progress during the holiday season is simply to continue to stay engaged with your guitar as much of the holiday period as possible, and to make music a part of your life for all the space in between.

7 Steps to a Stress-Free Experience at the Guitar Gym and Sono Music Performance Showcase

7 Steps to a Stress-Free Experience at the Guitar Gym and Sono Music Performance Showcase

The most exciting event of the year is rapidly approaching. For most of the performers at The Guitar Gym and Sono Music Performance Showcase, the concert is the biggest performance of their musical year. This can lead to some pretty high levels of anxiety and adrenaline, and the worst thing for a nervous performer is an unpleasant experience getting into the venue and onto the stage. This guide will give you the information you need to get yourself on and off stage with the minimum amount of fuss. That way, you can focus on your big moment! It’s also important for parents to be informed so that you can answer questions for your children and keep them calm as well.

 

1: Arrive Early

Being a bit early gives you more time to deal with the logistics – where to park, how far you have to walk, things like that. The most convenient car park is the secure parking on Berwick Street, but feel free to park in your preferred Fortitude Valley location. Try to be at the venue a few minutes before “doors” so that you can be sure that your session hasn’t already been let in.

 

2: Don’t Try to Enter the Venue Before the Door Time

“Doors” is the time at which (ideally) the doors will be opened and you can enter the venue. If it’s before doors, don’t ask the staff if you can go inside. There is probably work going on behind the scenes that does not want to be disturbed. And all you will achieve by asking to enter is stressing out yourself and the staff at the venue.

 

3: Don’t Rush into the Venue

The show won’t start until everyone is inside and settled down, so there’s no reason to get stressed out while you’re waiting to get your ticket checked. The process will take as long as it’s going to take, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. We won’t start without you!

 

4: Put Your Instrument Away Before You Sit Down

The door to the backstage area is on the left when you enter the hall. As soon as your ticket has been checked, take your instrument backstage, find a spot for it, and then go sit down. Having your instrument with you in the seats is enormously inconvenient for both you and the people around you.

 

5: Wait for Your Name and/or Song to Be Called

Enjoy watching the other performers and keep an ear out for what the MC says in-between songs. When your name is called, calmly head to the backstage area and retrieve your instrument.

 

6: Get Ready to Play

Get out your guitar and any other equipment, including your strap and picks. A lead will already be on stage, so you don’t need to worry about that. If you have a clip-on tuner, tune your guitar, then put your tuner away. You will be organised into your song groups, and your tuning will be checked by a staff member before you go on stage. Make sure to keep quiet – talking while backstage makes life much harder for our staff and is very disrespectful to the performers on stage.

 

7: Get on and off Stage Smoothly and Efficiently

You will be ushered into the wings during the song before yours. When their song ends, wait out of their path so that the group before you can leave the stage unimpeded. Once they’re off, get on stage, find your amplifier if needed, and get ready to play. As soon as your song is over, unplug and leave the stage. Put your instrument back in its case, leave it backstage and go return to your seat. You can come and get it once the show’s over.

 

Don’t be daunted by the logistics of the concert. Sure, it’s a big event, but if everyone remains calm and follows the above steps, then it will be a smooth and enjoyable event for all involved. You’ll even find that you play better when you aren’t stressed out by getting into the venue!

Mindless Practice: Maximizing Your Practice Time

mindless practice

Mindless Practice

Do you ever find yourself on a Wednesday night tossing up whether to watch the latest episode of “The Bachelor” or getting some guitar practice in? Why not do both! As society is these days, we rarely have enough hours in the day to get through everything we’d like to. This means that inevitably, we end up having to prioritise what we do in our leisure time, and as much as we don’t want to admit it – sometimes guitar gets left behind for soap-operas. A great way to sneak some extra guitar time into the week is to do some mindless practice while watching TV or watching a YouTube video.

Mindless Practise

Subconscious Skills

The importance of our subconscious mind while playing guitar is indisputable. There are simply too many things to consider while playing guitar. To perform a song really effectively, you must be able to not have to think about it. As we learn and play, things enter our subconscious constantly – forming a C chord without having to check a chart, playing the strumming pattern for a song without thinking about it, etc. Once these things are securely within our subconscious we can draw on them as needed using very little brain-power. This lets us worry about other things – such as an incoming barre chord or perhaps a 16th note arpeggio. Naturally, time is a large factor in getting things into our subconscious. The best thing about our subconscious skills however is in the name – we don’t need to be thinking about them too much while we’re practising them! This is where mindless practice comes in.

Mindless Practice

Now don’t get me wrong, mindless practice isn’t about picking up your guitar and bashing it until noise comes out. Like any sort of practise, things like planning, measuring and recording your progress, and goal setting are essential. The difference is what you actually do while you’re practising. Before you start, have in mind a particular technique/exercise/song that you are familiar with. Something you want to ‘tighten up’. You should have learnt what you’re about to play, but it may not be practised. Next, set yourself up in front of your computer/TV with a chair, a footstool, amp, picks, and anything else you’d normally use while practising.

Now, before you turn on “Game of Thrones” or “The Bold and the Beautiful”, play through the piece a few times. Make sure that you’re confident with how it goes. Make sure that everything about your technique (left hand position, right hand position, pick grip…) is looking good. This is a very important step, as the last thing you want to do is reinforce poor technique. Next, start your show going, and get your piece playing. To begin with, try to make sure everything is running smoothly. Then, start forcing yourself to pay less and less attention to what your hands are doing. Eventually, you should be happily watching your show, but would still notice if you made a mistake. It’s as simple as that!

Evidence

While ‘traditional’ practise methods might not recommend the idea of mindless practice, research over the last 50 years has shown otherwise. A thesis published by the Northwestern University of Illinois entitled “A Cognitively Oriented Concept of Piano Technique” in 1985 discussed the importance of “detachment” while playing and practising piano. It says that by detaching yourself from what you’re practising, you remove factors such as over-analysis and fear of mistake. This allows unconscious decisions to be made without the conscious mind stopping at every choice you make. Obviously this thinking translates perfectly to the guitar. How often have you been playing through something and started thinking “I hope I don’t stuff this up!”? How often has this been followed by you stuffing it up? The advantages of mindless practice are clearly evident.

 

So next time you’re facing the dilemma of getting some guitar playing in or risking having the latest episode of your favourite TV series ruined for you by someone tomorrow, grab your guitar out and do some mindless practice. You’ll be amazed what a difference it can make if you’re careful to plan out what you want to do. Set some goals, and measure your progress as you go! Your coach can help you with all of this, and even work on planning out a mindless practice schedule based around your TV viewing!

 

Aural Health and Tinnitus

Aural Health and Tinnitus

One of the most important assets any musician has is their ears. Not only do they allow us to play with other musicians, keep check on our own playing, and (with some training) work out how to play songs using our ear, they are fundamental to actually experiencing music. It makes good sense then that we should be aware of our aural health, and how to avoid damaging our hearing. This article will cover some anatomy to explain how our ears work, what can cause damage to our ears, and what we can do to protect them.

How Does Sound Get From the Guitar to Our Ears?

When you pluck a string on the guitar, it vibrates a particular number of times per second depending on the tension (tuning) and length (fret) of that string. This displaces the air particles around the string at a particular frequency, causing waves of pressure to radiate out from the string. These pressure waves are what our ears interpret as sound. When the sound waves hit our outer ear, they are funnelled down into the ear canal until they hit the tympanic membrane (or eardrum). The eardrum is connected to three tiny bones called ossicles (these are actually the smallest bones in the human body). The sound waves cause the eardrum to move back and forth very quickly – at the same speed the string was vibrating. This causes the ossicles (tiny bones) to vibrate as well, and they stimulate the cochlear – a tiny organ deep inside our ear which translates these sounds into an electrical signal that our brain can understand. The cochlear is also what is normally damaged in progressive hearing loss.

There are two functions of this system: one, to funnel as much sound in from all directions, and two, to either amplify very quiet noises, or attenuate very loud noises. This second point is very important – if given the chance, your ears can adjust to constant loud noise by adjusting the position of your ossicles (tiny bones), reducing the force of the vibrations being sent through to your cochlear, partially protecting it from damage. This is why it is particularly harmful to hear a very sudden, very loud noise – your ears have no time to adjust.

What is the Cochlear?

The cochlear itself is basically a fluid filled tube coiled up like a tiny snail, and lined with special, tiny hairs called cilia. When sound vibrations are transmitted into the cochlear, depending on the frequency of the vibrations, certain cilia will be stimulated. These cilia are connected to neurons, and when stimulated, will transmit an electrical signal to your auditory cortex where your brain makes sense of the sound. The pitch of a sound is determined by where in your cochlear the cilia are stimulated – higher pitches will stimulate the cilia at the beginning of the cochlear, and lower pitches will stimulate the cilia towards the end of the cochlear. Loudness is determined by the number of cilia stimulated. If the vibrations travelling through the cochlear are very strong, then the cilia can actually break off. Unfortunately, unlike birds or amphibians, in humans they don’t grow back, so if you lose enough cilia at a particular location in your cochlear, you won’t be able to hear sounds at that pitch anymore. As the cilia for higher pitches are at the beginning of the cochlear, they are the most vulnerable to damage.

How Loud is Too Loud?

So as you can imagine, if you want to keep your hearing healthy, you’ll want to avoid loud noises, and particularly loud sudden noises. But how loud is too loud? According to the American National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), sounds of 75 decibels or less are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However noises at 85 decibels or louder can cause hearing loss. To give you an idea, here is a chart from the Australian Government National Acoustics Laboratories of common noise levels and how long you can safely be exposed to them:

What About in Lessons?

In lessons, we normally wouldn’t go any louder than the noise a vacuum cleaner would make, so you have nothing to worry about in terms of hearing damage during lessons. If you’re cranking the amp at home though, this may be something to think about. Exposure to sounds too loud for too long can result in acoustic trauma – that is, damage to your ears caused by sound. Acoustic trauma can result in both temporary and permanent noise-induced hearing loss – something none of us want.

What’s this Thing Called Tinnitus?

In addition to hearing loss, acoustic trauma can also result in Tinnitus – noise or ringing in your ears when there is no physical cause. Tinnitus is a symptom experienced due to damage to our hearing system, and can be made worse by anything that affects our hearing, such as an ear infection or excess ear wax. It can be diagnosed by your doctor. Treatment is dependent on the cause – for example, resolving an ear infection may clear up the Tinnitus. Unfortunately though, if the Tinnitus is hearing loss induced, there is currently no treatment or cure.

How Do I Protect My Ears?

What should be clear by now is that we need to look after our ears! Obviously, the best way to do that is to avoid situations where we are exposed to loud noises for a long period of time. That means keeping your amp at a reasonable level! Unfortunately though, there are situations we find ourselves in where we can’t help being exposed to loud noises – for example at work, or at a concert. In these situations we should really consider using hearing protection. Talk to your local music shop or ask your coach for a recommendation on hearing protection equipment. While over-the-head earmuffs will do the job, there are some much more subtle ear protection devices available which will attenuate the level of sound you’re hearing without compromising quality. While hearing protection can sometimes be cumbersome or inconvenient, it’s a small price to pay for protecting your ears.

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of how our hearing works, and how we can protect it. Our ears really are our greatest asset, and unfortunately if we don’t take care of them, they can become damaged beyond repair. To avoid this, be aware of noise levels and how long we can safely be exposed to them, and in situations where you can’t avoid loud noises, use hearing protection.

Useful Links:

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss

Australian National Acoustic Laboratories

https://www.nal.gov.au/

Maintaining Productive Practice Methods

Maintaining Productive Guitar Practice Methods

Practice is something that holds a lot of preconceptions in the world of guitarists. One of these is that reaching a level of playing similar to one’s favourite players requires practice of otherworldly proportions, day in and day out. It is something that every guitarist, at some point, associates with endless hours of sitting in their bedroom, playing the same exercise over and over again to no apparent avail. However, there are some factors hiding in plain sight to be considered that will almost certainly change the way you look at guitar practice and the outcome you see occurring as a result of it.

Key Factors

Consistency

One of the most important factors any aspiring musician can employ in their guitar practice is consistency. When it comes to practice, consistency is proven to utilise muscle memory. 15 minutes 3-5 times a week is far more effective than an hour on Saturday. By consistently providing your nervous system with activity, you are introducing a pattern. This allows it to become proficient and take the wheel in a sense. One example of repetition leading to muscle memory stimulation that comes naturally to basically everyone is holding a pen.

Holding a Pen

There’s a reason our handwriting can be considered legible once we grasp how to hold a pen and the associated movements of the hand and wrist. Consider how you progressed from writing with your entire arm as a kid, to the much more natural movement now. This can be likened to first learning to strum. Initially, everybody strums with his or her entire arm in a very awkward, uncomfortable way. Once the muscle memory for this motion is introduced, it continues to become more effortless until it becomes second nature. This happens through the continuous repetition of the action. Hence why it is so much more favourable in terms of muscle memory to have your brain processing these movements on a regular basis. This is more effective than only being able to process the strumming (or handwriting) motion for a single 1-hour session a week. By opting to practice only once a week, you are preventing the nervous system from associating the movement as a regular occurrence of which it must accommodate, which will result in it taking far longer to become a fluid movement.

Patience

This factor is plain and simple. Every milestone in a guitar player’s life takes time and dedication. Patience will be your best friend in the long run, and you will eventually get to a point where you notice that all of the little pieces and improvements have come together and made a huge difference in your playing.

All of your favourite guitarists are walking examples of the fact that maintaining consistency and patience pays off.

Practice Makes Permanent

It is worth noting that muscle memory comes into play regardless of great or poor technique. It’s worth your while to take no shortcuts and ensure that your technique is as accurate as possible. Learning something the wrong way can be disruptive to the entire process of playing guitar, and can completely limit what you can do. So as soon as possible, assess the techniques and playing style you are employing, and check with your coach – they know how things should be. It can be something as little as ignoring a note in a phrase that isn’t fretted properly, and as a result is affecting your speed. This may seem minute, but it will eventually become a habit if you practice that way enough.

Mental Approach and Finding a Suitable Medium

Outlook

First and foremost, your outlook is the foundation which all of your achievements as a guitarist will be built upon.  It is important to set reasonable expectations on your limits, and chip away at them at a rate that challenges you, or reinforces a concept or technique that you are familiar with without leaving the impression that your guitar practice is a strenuous and unsatisfactory process. Through some basic trial and error, you will soon find a suitable level of time/effort that you can associate with productive practice that yields results.

When You Get Tired

It is important not to force yourself to practice if you are not making any progress with the exercise at that point in time. If the case truly is that you’re just not feeling it, and as a result you are practising poorly, then you are certainly better off either;

– Working on a different exercise or task, or

– Leaving practice altogether and coming back after a short break when you are refreshed and not at risk of practising haphazardly.

This ties in with idea of practising correctly, to ensure that you are not creating permanent, unwanted habits in your playing.

Initially, playing guitar is and always will be something exciting. You wouldn’t have begun playing were that not the case! But it can also be something that’s very daunting at any stage. Whether it be trying to memorise the C major scale in the open position, or being introduced to modes and their harmonisations. Compare this to the idea of learning your favourite guitar tune. If it’s something you’ve never confronted before, then it’s something that can be hard to see yourself doing. But one thing that will always apply to learning and practising, is that if you effectively break the task down into sections, and work on it with consistency and an effective outlook, it will immediately become much more manageable and won’t seem so far-fetched and out of reach. This will help increase your motivation in continuing to work on all of the songs, exercises, techniques and styles you choose to pursue, as there are few better feelings than watching the pieces that you’ve invested time and effort into come together.

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