Now you've decided what you're gonna practice, you need to practice it in the right way. There are a few easy tips for this, too:
There are loads more tips and tricks you could use that we'll be discussing in future - these few will give you a great foundation.
"Don't fear mistakes"
- Don't fear mistakes
- Ruthlessly eliminate mistakes
- Take more breaks
- Apply it immediately
- Repetition, repetition, repetition
- I've seen many a beginner (including myself, years ago) hesitate to try something new, because they're scared of getting it wrong.
They've heard that making mistakes is bad, so they want to avoid them - makes sense right?
...actually, it's one of the worst
things you can do for your playing.
You see, if you never make mistakes then you're not gonna learn anything.
You learn LOADS from trying new things and then noticing where you make mistakes. You can then fix these mistakes to become a better player.
After all, if you play a wrong note on guitar, what happens? Nothing! If you're playing by yourself then there are, quite literally, no negative consequences. However, there is
a big opportunity to become a better player, by figuring out why
you hit that wrong note and practising so you don't do it again.
Use that opportunity - and welcome it! "Ruthlessly eliminate mistakes"
- turn those mistakes into an opportunity to improve.
Welcome an opportunity to make mistakes on guitar, and then when you make a mistake, be ruthless.
Practice until you don't make it again. Figure out exactly what you're doing wrong (a teacher is really helpful here) and then use that information to fix the problem.
If you do this then you can turn every
wrong note into a fun practice session that'll give you real, long-term results.
I use this when playing live. If I make a mistake then I don't worry about it - I carry on as if nothing has happened (which often means the audience don't even notice the mistake). I do,
however, make a mental note of the mistake.
Then, after the show I can go through the mistakes I made and drill those areas until they're perfect. Every single time I make a mistake I can use it to make myself a better player!
Pretty awesome, isn't it? "Take more breaks"
- I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it's REALLY useful.
I don't mean you should practice less - I just mean you should break your practising into smaller pieces.
Let's say you're learning a new scale. Instead of doing one 30 minute session in a day, do three 10 minute sessions.
In fact, doing five or six 5-minute sessions would be even better!
This is because in order to put something in your long term memory, your brain needs to learn it, then forget it, then learn it, then forget it, until you no longer forget it.
Re-learning it repeatedly, over and over again, shows your brain that this is something important - it can't afford to forget it, because you keep needing it again! That's how you put stuff into your long-term memory.
You can do this with scales, technique, new songs... in fact, it's good for pretty much anything!
This can also help you to get more practice time. Sometimes it's difficult to set aside a full 30-minute block for practice, but we can all find a spare 5 minutes here and there.
One session before you go to work, one when you get home, a quick five minutes while dinner is cooking... you'd be surprised how much time you have if you use it well. "Apply it immediately"
- it's no good to just learn something. You need to learn to USE it.
If you've got something into your long-term memory, unless you teach yourself to use it in context, it's useless information.
Let's say you've mastered a new scale. You can play it up and down pretty quickly, and you know where all the notes are. The next step is to apply it.
You could do this in any number of ways, but often the best one is to improvise. Stick a backing track on and play around with the scale, trying to make melodies and solos on the spot.
At first it'll sound crap, but it doesn't matter - you're learning! It takes time to develop control over new sounds.
You could even turn the backing track off and improvise along with yourself, creating cool rhythm parts and lead lines as you play. Some would call it noodling, but this has had a HUGE impact on my playing over the years.
Do it with everything
- if you've learned a new tapping pattern, how about creating five ways to go between normal improv and tapping? You could do a bend, and then a left-hand trill, and then use that time to get your right hand in position.
Application is VITAL to becoming a good player and actually using what you learn. "Repetition, Repetition, Repetition"
- throughout all of this, there is one constant: repetition.
The more you repeat something, the better you'll know it. This is a fact of learning.
In fact, when you practice anything, what you're really doing is repeating it until you get to the level you want.
More repetition = more results. It's that simple!
There is no substitute for relentless repetition.
The thing is, though, the quality of those repetitions matters just as much as how many you do.
It's no good doing 10,000 repetitions of a shred lick if they're all full of mistakes and muscle tension. If they're perfect, though, then you'll get good results.
It all comes down to perfect repetition.