Tag Archives | practice session

Forget what you know about practicing guitar. Unconventional truth about successful learning.

large_3355674016California Polytechnic State University baseball team got involved in an interesting experiment.

The goal of this experiment was to find out what kind of practice regimen would improve players batting skills the most. Players who participated were highly experienced individuals. To determine what kind of practice produces better results, they were divided into two groups and each of this groups followed different practice routine.

Why am I talking about baseball? Hold on, everything will become clear soon.

Hitting a baseball is a very complex skill that takes years to master. Not only you have to recognize what type of pitch is thrown at you and how the ball will move, you also have to time and aim your swing so you hit the ball at the perfect moment. From the time ball leaves pitcher’s hand, it takes only about half a second for it to reach catcher’s mitt. There is no place for thinking, everything has to happen almost automatic.

If your goal was to improve someone’s batting skills, how would you do that?

In the experiment, part of the team practiced in a way that many people would consider as the most logical one. Batters had to hit 3 different types of pitches, where each was served 15 times in a row and then they moved to another one. This was a form of blocked practice in action.

The second part of the team practiced in a more chaotic fashion. They also had to hit 3 different kinds of pitches, but this time they were randomly distributed across the block of 45 throws.  If you were a batter, you would have no idea what kind of pitch is coming next. As you probably remember from my previous article, this is a form of interleaved practice.

The whole experiment included two practice sessions a week, continuing for six weeks.

During the batting practice, players who practiced in a blocked fashion showed massive improvement. With each repetition they became better at making contact with the ball and it became easier for them to anticipate how the ball will move. The second group however didn’t show that much of an improvement. At the end of 45 pitches they still struggled to hit the ball. Anticipating the type of pitch and movement of the ball was much harder, since they didn’t know what kind of throw is coming.

The interesting thing is that at the end of experiment, players who practiced in a random fashion displayed much better results than those who practiced in a blocked practice. What seemed like a massive improvement at first, didn’t lead to a long-term durable learning.   The results are even more fascinating if you realize, that all of the players were skilled batters before the experiment had started. Continue Reading →

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How to perform well when it matters?

5227363129_040abe9541_bHave you ever gone into a concert feeling that you are well prepared only to find out that your playing skills almost magically disappeared?

I don’t know about you but this is definitely something I am very familiar with. And if it happened to you before, you know how terribly it feels to practice hard for weeks only to observe that it was not enough.

Your confidence goes immediately down which only worsens the whole situation. And unfortunately, there is not much you can do right at that moment. Basically you can only hope for the best.

Why you cannot perform well when it matters?

The reason why you cannot perform well when it matters is really quite simple. You haven’t prepared enough.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

Maybe you have practiced your songs over and over again (which by the way I don’t think is a good strategy to become extraordinary guitar player) and maybe you have even spent quite a long time with your preparation, but everything you did was done in the safety of your practice room or rehearsal space of your band.

And that’s why your playing suffers under pressure.

This kind of practice won’t prepare you for situations when the stress is high.

It is much different to play when there are one hundred people staring at you than playing in your practice room. Your hands are cold and sweating, your breathing is shallow, your guitar doesn’t feel like yours and you can’t hear what you are playing. These are the real conditions and not your “grab a coffee and watch TV” guitar practice.

If you want to take your practice session to the next level, you’ve got to put yourself and your band members under pressure.  You’ve got to feel that it really matters what you play and how you play it. The better you can duplicate the conditions of a concert during your preparation phase, the more effective it can be.

Of course, the best preparation is to play a lot of concerts in front of people, but that is not always a possibility.

I want to show you few ways that can help you to prepare better for your next gig. It is all about making it harder and putting some pressure on ourselves while we still have time to correct mistakes. In order to be better live performers, we need to reach out of our comfort zone.

These tips really helped me to become more confident with my playing when it counts. Try it and see if it works for you. Continue Reading →

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