Maximise Your Guitar Practice: The Metronome

maximise guitar practice using metronome

Metronome practice is one of the most effective methods for improving your playing quickly, especially for technical, high tempo pieces. Unfortunately, for many of us it can also be a tedious way to practice and as a result is often overlooked or not done properly. Use these tips to maximise your metronome practice so you can spend less time with a metronome and more playing the fun stuff.

maximise guitar practice using metronome

Go Slow To Go Fast

Learning songs at a very slow tempo is likely something that has been relentlessly drilled into you already, its especially important for metronome practice. Usually it is recommended that you should start your metronome far lower than you might think, as low as 50-60 bpm. By starting at a tempo this slow, you are forced to thoroughly understanding the rhythmic placement of each note in relation to the beat of the metronome. It is important to note that reducing the tempo much below 50-60bpm is not recommended. Slower than this makes it extremely difficult to keep time due to long pauses between each beat. 

Take Small Steps

Once you are able to play the song fluently at a very low tempo, you can start to increase it. This increase should be very small. You should only ever increase the tempo by 1-5bpm at a time. By making small changes like this, the increase in speed is barely noticeable, and you will be able to adapt to it more quickly and accurately. It may seem tempting to increase by 10-20bpm, but you will likely end up struggling to play accurately with that big of a change and have to reduce the tempo again anyway resulting in lost time, and developing bad habits/mistakes.

Be Accurate

It is extremely important while using a metronome to be as accurate as possible. Small mistakes at a slow tempo will become large mistakes at a fast tempo. To maintain accuracy you should never increase the speed until you can play a section perfectly at least 3 times in a row. You should be able to play at the current tempo relatively effortlessly before increasing the tempo.

Tips For When You Get Stuck

With almost anything you learn, you will inevitably encounter a tempo that you struggle to get past. E.g you are learning a technical shred solo and can’t quite get the last 15 bpm you need. Here’s some tricks to gain that last bit of speed.

  1. Temporarily boost the speed to far beyond what your capable (e.g. full tempo of the song) and attempt to keep up with it a handful of times before reducing the speed again. When you reduce the speed back to where you started, it will feel relatively very slow and more achievable. Use this trick sparingly as using it too much will result in sloppy playing.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take a break if your struggling. Go for a quick walk, watch tv for half an hour, come back the next day. Whatever you need to do to clear your head and try again. 
  3. Try breaking the practice up into small concentrated chunks. Try spending just 10 minutes of heavy focus on the part you’re stuck on, then do something else for 20. Come back and do another 10 minutes and repeat. You will find these small blocks of intense focus will yield better results than if you tried to bash away at it for hours on end.
  4. Drop the tempo back down and check for any small mistakes. Sometimes we can get stuck at a speed because we have progressed to fast and started making mistakes.

Practice Songs You Already Know With Metronome

The metronome isn’t just for learning new songs. It’s also a fantastic tool for keeping on top of what we have already learnt, particularly for technically challenging songs. You will find that even in songs you have know for years, sitting down with a metronome and practicing it slowly for a few minutes will dramatically improve how accurately you can play it.. 

Where Do You Get A Metronome

Luckily for you, you will already have access to a metronome through either a computer or mobile phone. Google has a built in free metronome app, all you have to do is search “metronome”. For practice that requires non-standard time signatures and subdivisions, there are many great mobile apps that offer these features for free. So there’s no excuse for not using one.

So next time you sit down to practise with a metronome, try using these tips to maximise your practice time. The better you are at using a metronome, the less time you’ll have to spend using it. You’ll become a much cleaner, more accurate and faster guitarist for it.

Interested in guitar lessons? We’d love to help! Get in touch today.


Nail Your Rehearsal!

Drum kit and guitar sit on an empty stage before a performance.
  1. It’s almost rehearsal time for The Guitar Gym and Sono Music Performance Showcase. The organised rehearsal is an amazing opportunity to meet the rest of your band and practice playing your song in a full band context. This can be a daunting time, between meeting your bandmates for the first time and for some of you, playing your song in front of others. To make sure that you make the best out of this fantastic opportunity, follow the steps of this guide.

 

  1. Know your song


    Getting the most out of your rehearsal begins long before you even enter the rehearsal room. Rehearsals are for working out how playing in a band works – they are not for learning to play the song. Band members learning the song during the rehearsal wastes everyone’s time and will eat into time that could be better spent playing the song together. It is also of no use to you if you spend the whole time learning the song instead of practicing playing together. Even if you feel that you know the song pretty well, run through it at least once a day so that you can focus completely on working with the band.

     

  2. Be early


    You still haven’t even entered the rehearsal room, but nothing wastes rehearsal time like a late arrival. The more time you get to play the song with your band, the more beneficial the rehearsal will be. Don’t waste your rehearsal time on something as inconsequential as tardiness. Being early also might give you a chance to meet some of your bandmates before you get into the room. Lateness will hold up your band while they wait for you to arrive, then wait for you to get ready.

     

  3. Get ready quickly


    Once you’re in the room, try to find the equipment that you need as quickly as possible and get yourself ready to play as soon as you can. Get your instrument out, get it plugged in if need be, and check your volume as best as you can without annoying everyone. This includes tuning your guitar! Setting up quickly means you can get to playing the song sooner, as and also shows the rehearsal host how quickly you can organise yourselves. If you prove yourselves to be quick and efficient, then they may let you play a bit later into the session before telling you to pack up again.

     

    Empty stage before a performance.
    Come join us for our 2018 Performance Showcase!
  4. Follow directions


    A Guitar Gym or Sono Music host will be directing your rehearsal. They will be a seasoned performer with decades of experience in rehearsing bands for the stage. They know what they are talking about, and will help you to get some serious results from your rehearsal – provided that you listen to them.

     

  5. Play the song as many times as you can


    You don’t have a lot of time in the rehearsal room, so try to get through the song as many times as you can. Don’t spend time talking between each time unless you have a specific issue to work out. Every minute that you spend not playing is one minute less out of your rehearsal time that could be spent working on getting your band as tight as possible for the concert.

     

  6. Ask questions


    If you’ve got a question about how something works within the band, ask in between plays. If it’s confused you, then there’s a good chance that it’s confused someone else as well. The answering of the question will be probably help the whole band understand the song better. That said, save questions about your specific part for your lesson.

     

  7. Be respectful


    Don’t laugh at people for getting things wrong or for asking what you think is a silly question. Everyone will be at different stages in their musical career, and the last thing that anyone needs is grief from their bandmates. You’re in this together, so support each other and the whole thing will be more fun for everyone.

     

  8. Pack up quickly and efficiently


    Once your host has called the rehearsal to an end, pack up as quickly as you can to make room for the next band. If you’re packed up early, you might get a chance to ask more questions of either your host or your bandmates.

     

  9. Debrief with your teacher


    At your next lesson, discuss how the rehearsal went with your teacher. They will be keen to know how it went, and you may have more questions that you didn’t think of during the rehearsal. There’s a good chance that you realised that there was something that you need to work on, and your lesson is a great time to do just that!

Follow these steps, and your rehearsal will an amazing experience that will give you a huge boost to both your ability and your confidence leading in to The Guitar Gym and Sono Music Performance Showcase. Make the most of this opportunity, and above all, have fun and rock out!

Tips For Learning Your Showcase Song

dynamic control for guitar players

 

So you’ve registered for the concert and you’ve been placed in a band with other musos, and you’ve been given the song that you’re going to play on the day. Now all you have to do is learn the song! Easy enough, right? Just to keep the pressure off, let’s have a look at some ways that you can streamline how you go about learning your showcase song.

 

  1. Don’t panic


    Sounds pretty easy, right? Now that you’ve got a deadline, it can be easy to get yourself stressed out if your song isn’t coming along as quickly as you might like. If you’re really stressing, just talk to your coach about it – they’ll be able to help you with some more strategies, or if it’s really necessary, to simplify your part. You’ll have opportunities to rehearse your song with the rest of your band, too, so you don’t need to worry about that.

     

  2. Don’t waste time


    While it’s important not to get stressed out, it’s also very important that you don’t become complacent. Even though you have several weeks, that’s no reason not to start practicing diligently right now. By wasting time and putting off the hard work on your concert song, you’re only setting yourself up for an unpleasant rush later on. The sooner you get the song sounding good, the sooner you can work on playing it with others and playing it on stage.

     

  3. Know what you need to do


    If your coach has already outlined exactly what you’re going to be playing, whether that’s chords, lead, or a combination, then make sure that you stick to that. There’s no point in spending time learning all the various parts of a song if you’ll only be playing one of them on the day. Focus on learning your part, and your part only. If you aren’t sure exactly what that is, then you should ask your coach at the start of your next lesson.

     

  4. Memorise the song


    You won’t be able to take a chord chart or anything similar on stage with you, so start weaning yourself off it as soon as you can. Look for patterns and repeated sections that will make it easier to remember without a visual aid. You’ll also find that harder sections are much easier to play when you don’t have to stop and look at the notation. Make sure to actively listen to the song as often as you can tolerate.

     

  5. Make sure that you’re available for the upcoming rehearsals

    UPDATE:  Rehearsal schedule is here, please ensure you contact the office to confirm your attendance (or non attendance!)
    Try not to overbook the last few weekends before the concert. You will get the chance to run through your song with (hopefully) the entire band in the large group room at the Indooroopilly studio during one of the last weekends before the concert. It’s extremely useful and a great boost in your pre-show confidence to have had a rehearsal with all of your band members. The rehearsal is a great way to get a taste for what it’s going to sound like with your bandmates, and also is a great way to find out what you need to work on for the last couple of weeks. You should make every effort to attend. Unfortunately due to the number of people involved we cannot meet requests to arrange special rehearsal times.

     

  6. Rehearse more


    There is another opportunity for some more rehearsal time that is somewhat unique to The Guitar Gym and Sono School of Music. In the week or two before the concert, we encourage performers to attend each other’s lessons to squeeze in some more time playing the song together before they have to do it in front of friends and family. If your coach hasn’t already discussed it with you, just let them know that you’re interested and they will let you know when to come in for some extra time with your bandmates. For adult players, any rehearsal is a good opportunity to swap contact details with your band mates and organise some out-of-hours rehearsals at home. We have had several groups do this in the past, and it always leads to a well-rehearsed performance on concert day.  Our band room is also available for you to use at no cost, but be sure to book through the office.

 

You’ve got several weeks to get your song to a good standard before you perform it in front of other students and family members, but don’t let that fool you – you’ve got work to do, and no reason not to start on it right away. The last thing that you need when you’re about to go on stage is the worry that you haven’t done everything that you could have done to be ready for the performance. If you’ve done everything on this list in addition to plenty of practice, then you will have done pretty much everything in your power to be ready to play your song at The Guitar Gym and Sono Music Performance Showcase.

 

If you need some tips for maximising the effectiveness of your practice, make sure to check out our other articles:

Nail Your Rehearsal

8 Tips To Better Guitar Practice

10 Ways To Spice Up Your Guitar Practice

Maintaining Productive Practice Methods

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!

 

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.

8 Tips To Better Guitar Practice

member of the month April 2015, The G

8 Tips To Better Guitar Practice

So, you play the guitar and you want to get better at it. You already go to your lesson every week but you feel as though you could be improving faster.  If only you didn’t find guitar practice to be so boring! When a lot of people think of guitar practice, they immediately think of running scales and exercises for hours on end, and that can be a huge turn-off to the idea. Thankfully, guitar practice doesn’t have to be boring – it can actually be fun!

1. Include technical work, but don’t overdo it

Some people love technical exercises. If you don’t like them much at all, that’s no problem. Do one or two, only do them a couple of times, and do them first. Your guitar practice will be much more effective when there is technical work included, and you’re getting that in and getting it out of the way before you can spend as long as you want on the fun stuff. If you’re stuck for which one to do, have a look at your resources checklist on your journal page and see what you did last and what’s next in line.

2.  Play things you like

Enjoy your guitar practice.  If you really like technical work, play more of it. Play as much of it as you want. If you aren’t so keen on the exercises, get your one or two out of the way and get into playing some songs. Pick songs you like. If the one that you’re currently working on is getting you frustrated, have a bit of a go then move on. Play something from a few weeks ago to keep it fresh. Try learning a song that you’ve heard lately or one that you’ve always liked.

guitar practice

3.  Time trials

Time trials are a hugely underrated part of guitar practice. The best way to build up speed on the guitar is to repeat, and repetition often leads to monotony. Instead of endless metronome practice, try timing yourself. Try to see how quickly you can play all the chords in the phrase that’s bothering you, or see how many times you can switch between two irksome chords in 30 seconds or a minute. Not only can they be a real hoot, but they also give you a means to quantify your improvement.

4.  Don’t force it

There are going to be days where you really just don’t feel like picking up the guitar. There are going to be days where you’ve been at work or school and you’re exhausted and guitar is the last thing on your mind. This is life, and that’s okay. You don’t have to practice every day. If playing the guitar at all today is going to be a huge hassle, then don’t do it. You’ll probably achieve negligible gains, and forcing it too often will breed resentment for the guitar and build up a negative predisposition towards practicing, which will impact your ability to enjoy practicing on your good days.

5.  Play with a friend

Guitar practice is that thing you do by yourself, right? Not necessarily! Practising with a partner can be hugely beneficial, and it can be really enjoyable. Not only can you bounce ideas off each other, but you can compare techniques, discuss possible things to learn in the future, and can even compare scores in time trials. Trying to play songs together isn’t just a good way to build ensemble skills and improve your timing, but it’s also the essence of what music is. The social aspect of music is one of its best qualities, and you can’t really benefit from that without playing with others. If you’re not in a band, then practising with a friend is the best way to do that.

6. Make a video or other recording and share it

Recording yourself is becoming easier and easier as technology improves. You can easily record decent video and passable sound on your phone, and can get a decent quality recording setup for your computer quite cheaply. Making a video or a recording can be a really fun experience. Use whatever means you have available and record yourself playing something. It doesn’t really matter what it is – any song that you can play well enough and want to show off will do. How you record it will depend on how you’re going to share it. Think of it this way – Instagram has a 15-second video limit, so you only need to be able to play it convincingly for that amount of time or less. Set your phone up and have a few tries until you get a long enough clip of you playing it flawlessly, cut the video in Instagram, apply a filter, and there you go. It’s surprising how effective this can be for ironing out little issues in particular parts of songs. You will generally want a certain level of perfection for something that you’re going to share – a level that you might not have had the drive to push for otherwise.

7. Do something else while you’re practising

There are traditionalists who would be absolutely mortified that I would even suggest unfocused guitar practice, but it really isn’t such a bad idea, depending on what you’re practising. Mindlessly practising while you watch TV is highly effective for finger fitness exercises (and is probably more interesting than focusing on them), and also for right hand patterns such as strumming and fingerpicking. In these cases it works so well because the distraction of the TV forces you to program your playing into your subconscious, which will make it easier to automate what you are doing.

8. Don’t feel bad if you miss a session

Didn’t practice much this week? Don’t stress. Just go to your lesson and don’t worry about it. Beating yourself up over not practising every day is a negative mindset, which can build up and eventually lead to you giving up to avoid disappointing yourself. (You should read about this here.) They key to avoiding this is to set realistic practice expectations. Don’t forget that you will continue to improve even if you don’t practice at all outside of your weekly guitar lesson.

You continue to play the guitar because you enjoy it. Practising to achieve improvement on the instrument should play into this, rather than be a downside. Think of guitar practice time as an opportunity to continue enjoying your time on the guitar. If you aren’t having a whole lot of fun when you practice, try out a few of these tips to rekindle the spark and have fun whenever you’re holding the guitar – whether you’re on stage, in a lesson, or practising.

10 Ways To Spice Up Your Guitar Practice

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Bored with practising?

Here’s  10 Ways To Spice Up Your Guitar Practice!

Regular practice is the only thing that is absolutely guaranteed to speed up your progress on the guitar (besides regular lessons, of course). By “practising”, we’re not really referring to just picking up the guitar and having a strum – a proper practice session should be pre-planned and include elements like technical work such as scales or chord exercises, work on challenging material, and also some fun, easy-to-play stuff. The problem some of us have with fully structured practice sessions (or at least covering the “boring” stuff as well as the fun in each session) is that doing all your exercises and plodding through difficult material can feel tedious. This article will show you some ways that you can add some spice to your practising, making it more interesting and giving you some inspiration to perhaps do it more often. Some of them may sound a bit silly, but once you try them, you’ll see how these methods can make a huge different to the way you interact with the guitar and perceive what you are playing.

 

  1. 1. Plan your practice


    If your practice session is not already planned out, then this is where you should start. Planning out your practice streamlines the less enjoyable parts of your practice session and maximises the impact of all segments. Members of The Guitar Gym have it especially well in this department, as you can talk to your coach about using the practice planner in your online journal to plan out your practice time. Usually, it is best to do technical work first, followed by challenging material that you are currently working on, followed by playing some material that you are already familiar with. Of course, your coach will know what best suits your needs and interests and will be able to give you the best advice in regards to your practice plan.

     

  2. 2. Set yourself micro-goals


    This can be applied to any part of your practice routine, and is an excellent way to get some instant gratification into your session. Time-related goals are an easy way to give yourself a measurable target to aim for.  Time yourself playing that exercise that you’re working on. Now do it again, and do it half a second faster. Write down what time you managed. Next time that you practise that exercise, beat it by another half a second. These kinds of challenges give you a convenient way to measure your improvement, while simultaneously giving you that immediate thrill of doing something better than you did before. You don’t need to make things too hard for yourself – remember, they are “micro” goals. You can apply this time-trial type game to anything that you are working on, whether it’s getting to a difficult chord, playing a scale, playing a chord sequence, or playing a certain part of a song.

     

  3. 3. Practice in a different spot


    Where do you normally sit when you practice the guitar? Are you always on the same chair in the same room facing the same direction? Try changing any one of these things. Turn your chair around so that you’re facing a different part of the room. Sit in a different chair. Try moving into a different room, and try different spots in that room. Even though where you are sitting may well have no effect on the way you physically interact with the guitar, there mere fact that you are in different surroundings and can see different things from where you are sitting will make your practice feel different to how it did before. You will also find that different rooms have different acoustic qualities – your guitar may sound completely different to how it does in your usual room. Have a good listen to the differences in the sound – is it better or worse? What do you like or dislike about the sound in the new room? Does it expose any weaknesses or interesting qualities in your playing that you couldn’t hear in your usual place? Moving your practice location is especially effective if you’ve been practicing in the same spot for a long time.

     

  4. DanEvansRipping_posterised4. Change up your technical exercises


    Do you find scales fun and exciting? Even if you did answer “yes” to that question, changing up your technical exercises can add new life to your technical component. There are a number of ways that you can go about it. First up, you can try adding some new scales to your routine. Look up some new modes, or ask your teacher. Some scales have some very interesting tonal characteristics, and hearing some new and more interesting sounds in your scales can make your session more exciting, and also help you to appreciate the character of the scales that you already know. As for those scales you already know, try playing them new ways. Do you always play your scales up and then down? Try playing them in ascending and/or descending threes or fours, or try playing them with a swing feel. Play them upside-down or inside-out. Try this with your finger fitness exercises as well. Try coming up with your own finger fitness exercises – come up with a neat pattern, or one that your brain finds hard to imagine, and try to get it to the same standard as your usual workouts. It’s possible to come up with some pretty wild ideas for these kinds of exercises, and you might even find something that you’ll turn into an original song one day.

     

  5. 5. Practice in front of a mirror


    This may sound a bit ridiculous, but there is actually a number of reasons why it is beneficial to practice in front of the mirror every once in a while. One reason is that you can see the way you are sitting. Use this opportunity to check your posture and make sure that you are sitting the way that you should be. Posture is often something that can slip when you are playing by yourself, since you can’t see what you are doing wrong and your teacher isn’t there to inform you. Being able to see yourself also helps you work on your stage presence. It’s interesting to try and play your material while also making it good to watch. Practicing in front of a mirror will also help you to work on your “guitar face” – you know, that awful face you pull when you’re concentrating really hard. While this doesn’t directly affect your playing, there is a good chance that it will make you more comfortable playing in front of others without having to worry about your guitar face.

     

  6. 6. Play some of your older songs


    Remember those songs that were so hard to play back when you were first starting? The ones that you found ways around playing properly because you weren’t advanced enough at the time? During the “fun” stage of your practice session, try digging out some of the songs that you played when you first started learning. See how much of them you can remember without looking it up. Do some parts seem really easy now when you struggled with them before? Do some chords sound different to how they did before now that your fingers are more capable on the fretboard? How easy you find older material is another good way of gauging how much you’ve improved since you first looked at those songs.

     

  7. 7. Stand upDaniel Mahler_0


    Try playing standing up. Being on your feet does wonders for your stage presence, and it also provides a whole new set of challenges. Spend some time getting your strap set to a height that you find comfortable (ask your teacher for advice, as well), then have a go of some of your technical work or a song that you enjoy playing. Once you get used to the spatial sensation of playing standing up, have some fun with it – take a power stance, walk around the room, jump along to the beat – anything you like. Doing some of your practice standing up will also mean that when you go to play a performance standing up, you won’t suddenly feel as though you can’t play the guitar anymore.

     

  8. 8. Improvise


    Think of all the different scales you know. Instead of doing additional runs of scales that you feel you know well enough, try pulling up a backing track on YouTube that fits some of your scales and use those scales to rip a huge solo. This not only helps you get even more familiar with your scales, but is good for your senses of melody, phrasing and dynamics.

     

  9. 9. Randomize


    Put all the songs that you know how to play in a playlist on your computer or your iPod/MP3 player and put them on shuffle. Play each song as it comes. This works even better if your repertoire covers a couple of contrasting styles. This activity builds on a couple of different skills. As you would expect, this tests how well you have memorised your repertoire, as instantly recalling how to play something requires a level of familiarity with how the song is played. This is especially true if you are taking an improvised solo over the song, as you also need to recall what key the song is in and what chords you are playing over, and what scales, arpeggios and licks work over those chords.  If a song comes up and you can’t remember how to play it, try to work it out as best you can from listening to it. This is great practice for your aural skills, and something you pick up by ear might jog your memory for the rest of it. If not, you get to listen to a song that you like – it’s a win-win!

     

  10. NatandOscar0910. Practice with a partner 


    Music is a social activity, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be practiced that way. There’s lots to be gained from having another person to practice with, whether or not they are better than you. You can go through scales and exercises together, provide constructive feedback on weaknesses, discuss approaches to various techniques, or even challenge each other to see who can do certain things faster or more clearly. For a more in-depth discussion of the many benefits of practising and learning in groups, read this article.

Practice is something that has the potential to be a bit boring, but by no means does it have to be. The next time you feel a bit down about your practice, try one or more of these strategies to spice up your practice sessions. Ultimately, you play guitar because you enjoy it, and practicing it shouldn’t be any different.

 

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