Practice only makes permanent.
In order to get better results, you’ve got to improve the quality and quantity of your practice time.
I believe that the difference between a mediocre player and a great one is in the quality of their practice habits. Sure, quantity matters but unless you have 5 to 6 hours a day for your guitar, you are screwed.
And as far as I know, most aspiring guitar players don’t have that kind of luxury. That’s why it is crucial to focus on the quality. If you can get one or two hours of really focused practice session in one day, you can accomplish great things.
You can get better results without putting in more time. But you have to put more focus and attention into what you are doing during your practice hours
Yes, this is deliberate practice in action here.
If you have never heard of it, here’s a brief definition:
Deliberate practice is a set of various activities that lead to improvement of your performance.
To practice deliberately means to practice at the edge of your abilities where things are not too easy, nor too difficult. You’ve got to find the sweet spot as Daniel Coyle might say. Sweet spot is the magic place where most of the learning happens. The more time you spend there, the better you can get.
The reason why most aspiring guitar players won’t move past mediocrity is that they don’t push themselves hard enough. Consciously or unconsciously, they don’t want to get out of their comfort zone. It just doesn’t feel very good to be constantly reaching out of what you find comfortable. But we need to realize that this struggle is really the key to our progress.
Since it is not very pleasant to constantly push yourself, most guitar players will stop improving at some point. It is not that they don’t have enough talent or they are not smart enough, they just stopped refining their practice strategies. They don’t challenge themselves anymore.
The most overused guitar practice strategy
Probably the most typical practice strategy I’ve seen among aspiring guitarists, is to play the song(or whatever they are practicing) from beginning to the end, as if they are performing it. Doug Lemov calls this kind of practice scrimmage. (If you haven’t checked his book Practice perfect yet, definitely do that.)
Scrimmage is designed to replicate the performance. It is a legitimate practice strategy but most guitar players use it for wrong purposes.
Scrimmage is really good for evaluation of your performance, it is suited for recognizing weak spots and mistakes, it is a great strategy to find out what we need to work on. But it is definitely not designed to improve our performance. Repeating the same thing over and over again is not a good way to master anything.
This is where drills come into place.
A drill deliberately distorts the setting in which participants will ultimately perform in order to focus on a specific skill under maximum concentration and to refine that skill intentionally. Drill strive to maximize the amount of mental energy focused on a skill. Doug Lemov, Practice perfect
Isolating problem areas is crucial if our goal is to improve the performance. We cannot improve everything all at once, but we can definitely get better if we focus on one problem area at a time.
Scrimmage helps us to recognize what we need to work on and then we can use drills to deliberately work on the weak spots. Once we have worked through all of the problem areas, we can use scrimmage to check if our performance has improved.
Combining these two strategies is a great way how to get more out of your practice session. By constantly working on the problem areas we are broadening our comfort zone and that means we are getting better.
What other strategies do you use to get more out of your practice time? Please, let me know in the comments.
Image courtesy: malias
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