Tip Number 2: How To Practice

How to practice 

This is something that will definitely be different for every person and I’m sure it will evolve for me throughout my life. But here is a nice listicle for you:

  1. Have a list! I don’t care if it’s a mental list, physical list, iPhone list etc… But have one! I personally like physical lists because I can cross off things. My process is sitting down once a week on Sunday night and planning my weekly goals in music. Example weekly List: Finish learning Jesu Joy of Man’s desiring on guitar, practice Bill Withers cover several times, practice at least 1 vocal exercise a day, learn a new guitar technique….and the list could vary in size. Next have a daily list. I usually make this right before I practice and it takes around 5 minutes to think about what would help work towards my weekly list. Example daily list: Practice measures 20-25 of Jesu, work on “I know I know” part of Ain’t no sunshine, look up claw hammer guitar videos etc… Monthly goals can be good, but I find my self too overwhelmed with goals like ” learn 20 new songs this month or “get better at guitar” which could totally work for some people. But I find weekly goals enough.
  2. My personal favorite amount of time for a practice session is 30-60 minutes. But I usually have 2 or more of those per day. And I break up those times into different musical segments. I’ll do 30 minutes of guitar (fingerstyle, classical, scales), 15 minutes vocal work/songs and maybe 15 minutes with a new instrument or watching other artists. Many times people think they are being “unproductive” by watching youtube videos. But if planned into the music process, I find myself being able to look up great videos of players I admire (concerts, interviews, demos etc). This always leaves room for some inspiration/improvisation work.
  3. Always have space in your practice session for “whatever” time or “creative” time. Just sit down and write a melody, song, or make interesting sounds on your instrument. I love watching Jack White make the most unusual sounds on his guitar, or watching someone like Bobby Mcferrin do some amazing vocal improvisations. And once I finish watching those videos I try and mimic or create my own sounds.
  4. Take breaks, some musicians think it’s necessary to practice 3-4 hours a day (sometimes straight through). But I would argue that when planning a practice session, taking breaks and staying consistent is better than muscling out a 3 hour practice session. This is similar to cramming late at night for an exam the next day. A good indication that you need a break is if you get stuck in a piece and feel yourself getting frustrated. At this point stretch, go on a walk or do some deep breathing. All these things usually help me regain focus.
  5. Don’t play through the same piece of music the same way a million times. Once you have learned a piece of music close to the original way, try and mixing it up. Maybe that means putting the song to a swing beat, or if it is a swing beat, doing it straight. Or maybe that means increasing or decreasing the tempo or volume. Be creative, try new things.
  6. Use a metronome or practice with recorded songs. For the first 5 years of learning my instrument I was never told to practice with a metronome. But towards the end of college and in the past 2 years I have added a metronome to my practice sessions. I try to practice with a metronome at least once a week, if not once a day. Try practicing scales, or a song at a certain metronome tempo, then mess around with increasing and decreasing tempo.

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