How to Practice

So many people struggle with effective practice.

Firstly, playing is not practice! Jamming, playing your favorite songs you’ve done a thousand times is FUN, but not practice.

Practice should be focused and challenging with a clear vision of how it is going to develop your musical ability.

Practice falls into 6 main categories:

  • Sight Reading
  • Aural (listening skills)
  • Theory
  • Technique
  • Composition
  • Performance

Most musicians find that they may be strong in a number of these areas but weaker in one or two in particular, this is where your practice should be focused.

(That being said, you should balance this against your goals, if you’re only wanting to play covers with your mates for example, you might only need some Aural skills, maybe a little Reading, but a lot of Technique and Performance.)

Here is an idea for a well rounded hour of practice (if you have 2 hours, double each section. If you only have 10 minutes do one section and alternate between the each day).

10 minutes warm up/independence;

So for Guitarists, you might want to ascend the first 4 frets on each string. Using 1 finger per fret (so 1st/index finger in the 1st fret, 2nd/middle finger in the 2nd and so on), start on low E and work across the neck, E,A,D,G etc. Before descending in the opposite direction 4, 3, 2,1 from High E down E,B,G,D etc. You can develop this over time, using different finger combinations, adding string skipping e.g jumping from E to D, A to G, D to B and so on. Use a metronome and make sure each note rings cleanly. There will be certain combinations that feel the most unnatural and tricky these are the ones to dedicate more time to.

10 minutes Scale Practice;

Take a scale e.g the Major scale and play it within a position you’re comfortable with, there are 5 basic positions for each scale that relate to the CAGED system. Ascending and descending is a great place to start, set a metronome to 60 bpm and see if you can play it in Crotchets, then Quavers, Quaver Triplets, Semiquavers, Quintuplets, Sextuplets and so on, never changing the metronome but only the subdivision of the beat. Once comfortable play in 3rds e.g C-E, D-F, E-G, then 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths and Octaves. Learn each position over time, moving into Minor and Modal Patterns.

10 Minutes Harmonise a Scale;

Basic Chord triads or Roots, 3rds and 5ths to start with, within a Diatonic key, then add 7th degrees, suspended and additional notes, inversions and slash chords as you develop. Write chord progressions and song frameworks appreciating the qualities of the different chord types.

10 Minutes Aural;

Pick a tune, any tune you can hum. If you are new to this start with nursery rhymes, Christmas carols etc, but a riff from your favorite song, a vocal melody or a chord progression maybe a little more inspiring. Work out the notes you can hear on your instrument, write the names down and see if it conforms to a scale or key, once you have the melody try to count along, as a bonus try to transcribe what you’ve worked out.

10 Minutes Reading;

Whether it be an exercise or a song, sit down and count the rhythm, work out which fingers are suitable and how you’re going to pick it, then go slow. Break it into sections and focus on bars and phrases rather than whole pieces.Learning a song quickly is great but can lead to silly mistake which take a lifetime to unpick.

10 Minutes Improvising/Composing;

Without the ability to improvise there is no hope for composition. Fell inspired by a scale, chord, backing track or song you’ve been playing. Use them as a starting point. Develop melodies, change rhythms, re-voice chords, rewrite and extend before assimilating it into your playing identity.

From all those at the Red Dog Studios…….Happy Practicing!!!!

#mikebateson #reddogstudios.co.uk #practicetips

 

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