How to choose the right material for your guitar practice?

guitar practice material

If you know what a deliberate practice is and how to use it to your advantage, your progress on guitar will accelerate.

Embracing the principles of deliberate practice really makes a huge change in people’s playing. I’ve seen that happen many times.

But if you want to make your progress even faster, you not only have to learn how to practice but also what to practice.

And this article is all about the “what”.

Why is your guitar practice material important?

I didn’t really pay much attention to the distinction between material and method until I read Tim Ferriss book The 4-Hour Chef (aff). In the chapter on Meta-learning he states the most important lesson of language learning:

“What you study is more important than how you study.”

He goes even further:

“Students are subordinate to materials, much like novice cooks are subordinate to recipes. If you select the wrong material, the wrong textbook, the wrong group of words, it doesn’t matter how much (or how well) you study. It doesn’t matter how good your teacher is. One must find the highest/frequency material. Material beats method.”

It made me think.

How important is the material that I practice?

Tim suggests that material is superior to the method. Let’s take a closer look.

If you have high-frequency material and poor methods of study, you probably won’t be progressing very fast, but at least in the right direction.

What about the opposite scenario?

If you have poor material but great study methods, you end up with a bunch of useless stuff.

Even though it is hard to imagine that someone with great study methods would choose a poor material, it is quite clear that the importance of material is really high.

We don’t have to decide whether material is more important than method or vice versa.

The fact is that in order to maximize our learning ability, we have to choose high-frequency material and practice in the most efficient way. We need to master both: what and how.

What is a perfect material for your guitar practice?

Now that we know that material really matters, we have to determine how to find the best material for our guitar workout.
Of course it all depends on what our musical goals are. And if we have our guitar practice schedule in place, we should be quite clear about that. If we don’t know what our guitar goals are, we won’t be able to choose the right material.

To make this a little bit more detailed, I will show you how I chose my guitar practice material recently.

A few weeks ago I became quite obsessed with country guitar playing. Players like Albert Lee, Brent Mason and Brad Paisley started to influence me heavily. So I decided to take a closer look at this country thing.

And as you can imagine, there is lot of great country guitar players and it is quite easy to become overwhelmed with all the stuff that you want to learn. Moreover these country guys play ridiculously fast.
There is not enough time in my day to learn it all and what is more important, I don’t want to become professional country guitar player. I just want to be able to reproduce some of those great country sounds – imitation of slide guitar, double-stops, banjo rolls etc.

So my main task was to find a material that would cover it all. And after few attempts I found this little video by Steve Trovato.

The first time I saw it, i knew it was the right material for me. Steve is a great player with lots of experience and he really knows how to play country well. This 2 minute video contains everything I need to learn. It is a perfect material for my guitar practice.

Here are few guidelines that could help you find your guitar practice material:

The perfect material has to be:

1, high-frequency – contains everything you need to learn in one place; captures the essence of what you want to learn
2, interesting – you have to enjoy it immensely
3, understandable – you should be able to replicate what you see and hear
4, insanely practical - you can use it immediately

Once you find your material you can start to apply the principles of deliberate practice to master it. Your progress will be much faster than what you are used to. Try it and let me know!

What is your perfect guitar practice material?

Image courtesy: OctopusHat

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