Effective practice . . . . . . some advice please

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Having returned to "the world of guitar" after far too many years of not even picking one up (long story), I am facing a strange situation of remembering bits, but forgetting most of what I knew before; about kit, and playing, and everything.

It is a wonderful new journey to be on for sure.  The past few months are a mix of frustration and elation, as it slowly comes back.

There are some great resources on here to help, and some fantastic people.  I have been following the "perpetual beginners" discussion, as I sort of fall into that camp as I am learning all over again.  The "ability over practise" discussion is another interesting one too.

So can any of you kind folks give me some good advice on practicing.

Any, and all, aspects of that would be helpful.

I do want to make good use of my time.
( One lifetime is never enough if you are curious and passionate about anything )

Playing again does give me an interesting perspective however; having been there before, but taking the path fresh again.

This is also a great opportunity to un-learn any bad habits from my "previous life" as a guitarist.
Thanks all.  Chris.   :)

@octatonic  - that practice log / schedule would make a good start, maybe?

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  • wordywordy Frets: 66

    I'll be very interested to see how this thread develops.

    I know over at Justinguitar his advice is to split your available time into small chunks, like maybe 5 mins or even less, and then set a timer and practice different areas (technique, scales, transcribing, etc) sequentially - kind of like guitar circuit training I suppose.

    I've thought about doing it, but it just seems like I want to spend longer doing the individual parts, meaning that I cant possibly fit everything in.

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  • I think, whatever you 'practice', regularity is the most important thing. A little and often is better than occasionally. Ten minutes a day will see you progress quicker than two hours once a week.
    I try and at least pick up the guitar once a day, even if only for a quick strum.
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  • CatthanCatthan Frets: 196
    edited August 2013
    What everyone above said plus you need to realize that time is your ally, there are no shortcuts and even the pros have felt the frustration you sometimes feel.  And if you feel you sound unmusical despite all the chords, scales and shapes you've mastered, then maybe you aren't transcribing enough licks. 

    I think I also mentioned it somewhere else but there has been scientific research showing that musicians can practice effectively without even playing and this helps the brain built the right neural paths etc. It's a bit like positive imagery or "visualization" and you basically focus your brain and imagine you're a practicing smth, with all the details, notes, dynamics. Theoretically, if it's focused and detailed, the brain is exercised as if you were actually playing. Of course it needs to be done in conjunction to actual playing so that the ears, the brain and fingers know what's happening. then you can brain-practice a bit before sleeping.

    I'm not a native English speaker so I can't explain  well but here it is from Justin

    and here from Chris Brooks (Australian shredder)

    and a nice read about musicians' brain function and a section about mental practice

    Brgrds,
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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    wordy said:

    I'll be very interested to see how this thread develops.

    I know over at Justinguitar his advice is to split your available time into small chunks ...

    I've thought about doing it, but it just seems like I want to spend longer doing the individual parts, meaning that I cant possibly fit everything in.


    Thanks @wordy, I too am very interested to see how this discussion develops.

    There are a lot of knowledgable folks on here, so this will hopefully develop into a useful resource for the whole community.  Where ever you are on the path, there is always more to learn.  But isn't that part of the joy of it?

    I have to agree, it seems good use of practice time to concentrate on individual parts and then move on to the next.  Maybe it's just a matter of discipline to stick to a narrower time slot for each, and thus cover more ground.  What ever the best answer is to that, you definitely need to keep your motivation for what you are working on, and give good time for "just" playing to weave it all together.

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  • wordywordy Frets: 66

    @ChrisMusic yeah, I think for example, if I'm going to have a proper go at transcribing, I'm going to need a minimum of 30-60 mins in one session, to get anywhere with it.

    Whereas technical exercises, or say learning the fingerboard - I reckon you can improve a surprising amount with only 10 mins a day.

    If you're going to learn new songs, then again you need more time in one chunk.

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    As @steamabacus says, regular practice / playing time is very important.  "Little and often" is so much more effective than just pilling in once a week.  That probably applies to smaller chunks several times a day, rather than one big session too.

    The mind seems to remember the first bit and the last bit of something, far better than what is in the middle.  That is how movies are structured, albums too, and any good gallery will create a dynamic flow with a punchy start and finish, a theme, and with highs and lows to retain interest as you walk through an exhibition.  (and just like symphony or a good solo)

    So splitting practice as Justin suggests gives you more starts and ends for your mind to work on, and spreading the repetition through a day makes your mind elevate the importance of learning it, as it is programmed to deal with repeat occurrences to help us survive.  That pretty much applies to anything in life.

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  • carloscarlos Frets: 1673
    I'd advise using a metronome as often as possible (I know I'm repeating myself). It's annoying as hell but it gives you that constant pulse which demands your concentration. If you are doing your playing without a metronome it's easier to get distracted and play slower, sloppier. With the metronome you are forced to be on the beat at all times which is great. Also, it gives you a day to day picture of your progress. Start doing this exercise at 120bpm on Monday and then by the following Monday see how fast you can put the metronome and still play it accurately.
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  • jaygtrjaygtr Frets: 218
    edited August 2013
    While regular practice is important, so is mucking about as well. Because ultimately have fun or enjoying yourself is the whole point of playing in the first place.

    Admittedly mucking about on the guitar is much better when your good, which comes with practice etc.

    Probably the best way is to reward yourself . Say 40mins proper practice followed by 20 mins of whatever you enjoy. :)

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    Thanks for that @Catthan, excellent videos and link, they get the point across well.  I know a lot of native English speakers who don't possess the eloquence you do, so don't worry about that.  Thanks for the contribution.

    I remember watching Formula One in the nineties and before the race Damon Hill was reluctant to talk, sat in the car with his eyes closed, driving the track in his mind.  He got a world championship out of it. It seems to be 'de rigour' in any major sport now-a-days.
    So I guess it is another valid tool for our musical armoury.

    Finger exercise practice, whether on it's own or as a part of playing, doesn't just contribute to muscle memory, but also develops the appropriate areas of the brain, and to cement those neural pathways used repeatedly in playing.

    Something I watched on TV about super-sports people showed how brain mass actually increased in the areas utilised.
    So it looks like you can train your brain with both real and virtual exercise.

    Finger co-ordination, dexterity and independence exercises can also be done away from the guitar.  So travel time, TV watching, waiting in the queue at the supermarket, can all become productive.  They can be a bit of help with insomnia too.

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  • CatthanCatthan Frets: 196
    I'm happy you find the value in this info Chris, indeed those methods are widely used in sports, even in communications and sales I would assume. It's like prepping the mind. I know i did it a few times before meetings though I couldn't gauge how much it helped.

    With regards to the gtr, I ve seen some improvement though I've been too tired to do it lately. Were I less tired I'd probably grab the gtr and have proper practice sessions but it seems my brains can't cope with any more effort these days.

    That's another thing which I've realized lately, for an effective practice session the brain should better be "fresh". If it's fried up after 10 hrs of MS Excel then it won't like to read notes/tabs, coordinate fingers etc..And that's a pity 'cause people may have the time to put into it but lack the resources. In that case it's good to do some finger work to maintain mobility. You don't gain so much but don't loose either.

    Another point with regards to warm up: iirc Carl Verheyen was saying somewhere that it's best to warm up playing smth you want to learn, a lick etc. It doesn't have to be 1,2,3,4- type exercises for x amount of time. Unless of course somebody has a specific warm up routine for reasons like avoiding recurring tenon injuries etc. 
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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    Good point about the metronome @georgenadaintl.  I know what you mean about annoying, so I've not really gelled with using one.  I recon a drum machine might be more musical, and less irritating.

    One thing I have found to be good for me, is to unplug the guitar and sit with the TV, or whatever has some music on it, even if you don't like the song, and play along, or do picking practice, or scale practice, or whatever. (But you are unplugged and don't really hear if you are off key, which is good.)

    It makes you play not only in time, but get used to adapting quickly to varying tempos, and different grooves.
    The different grooves thing is really important to getting 'feel', and which beats the metronome for me.

    Apart from that playing with other people is probably the best training.
    I recon I''m not back up to that just yet, but soon maybe. 
    [-O<

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  • mike_lmike_l Frets: 5672

    @ChrisMusic ; it's never too soon to play with others. If you think about it using a DVD or backing tracks is playing with pre-recorded other musicians.

     

    I wish I'd done it sooner.....

    Ringleader of the Cambridge cartel, pedal champ and king of the dirt boxes (down to 21) 

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  • A looping pedal is a great practice tool. It's great (if a little disheartening at first) for getting your timing together laying down a backing. And it's far more interesting for experimenting with lead licks, etc.
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  • CatthanCatthan Frets: 196
    A looping pedal is a great practice tool. It's great (if a little disheartening at first) for getting your timing together laying down a backing. And it's far more interesting for experimenting with lead licks, etc.
    This ^ too!!
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  • ddloopingddlooping Frets: 320
    Interesting theory/viewing, @Catthan, thanks. :)
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  • spacecadetspacecadet Frets: 664
    Some sage advice in this. Love him or hate him he knows his stuff.

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    Any thoughts on my remarks on the metronome above?

    I am quite prepared to admit I'm wrong and be guided, isn't that what learning is all about?

    Thanks @steamabacus for the looper suggestion, I've been thinking about getting one for just that reason, so maybe that is the kick up the ass I needed.
    And thanks too to @Catthan for seconding a good idea too, must do it. (and for the sleep / freshness and warm up ideas)


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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 9045
    I also prefer using a drum machine to a metronome. Don't think there is any harm in doing so.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • vizviz Frets: 5514
    Thou shalt not use a drum machine?
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  • ddloopingddlooping Frets: 320
    Some sage advice in this. Love him or hate him he knows his stuff. 
    Lovely track. :)
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 9045
    viz said:
    Thou shalt not use a drum machine?
    Have I fallen foul of Moses again?
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 21882
    viz said:
    Thou shalt not use a drum machine?
    Have I fallen foul of Moses again?
    As I said on the other thread, metronomes are fast.
    Drum machines require more fiddly.

    I have a lot of options here in the studio- DFH, BFD, Logic Drummer, various drum plugins.
    They take time to pull up and get right.

    My metronome sits in my gigbag, takes 2 seconds to turn on and set up.
    The goal is to play, not fiddle about.
    YMMV of course.

    Anything that gets you playing though- be goal oriented.

    "And what would humans be without love?"
    “RARE, said Death.”

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  • vizviz Frets: 5514
    edited August 2013
    Monquixote: Afraid so! By the way: That vai clip is, yet again, an indication that he is a proper musician who really thinks carefully about his art. I respect the views of people who don't like his music, but surely everyone's got to admit he is a true musician in every sense. Thanks for posting!
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 9045
    edited August 2013
    octatonic said:
    As I said on the other thread, metronomes are fast.
    Drum machines require more fiddly.

    I have a lot of options here in the studio- DFH, BFD, Logic Drummer, various drum plugins.
    They take time to pull up and get right.
    Rather usefully the Zoom G3 has one built in so it's only a button press away. 
    Moses be damned!
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    @mike_l - thanks, a good suggestion, I may just need to get over the stage fright of playing in front of and with other musicians again.  I thought I had got over that years ago, now I'll have to break through it all over again   ;)
    All part of the learning curve though.

    I am currently in a musical vacuum with the exception of the community here at FretBoard.

    Is there anything going on around Cirencester, Swindon, Cheltenham area, or how do I find out about it?  Maybe I need to look further afield?
    I know you have jam nights etc from some of your posts, so I may just turn up if I am in Cambs some time.

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    Wow, I just went to get supper, and all these conversations have materialised, thanks guys, I'll have a good look through.
    Looks like a good video, so maybe to that first. 
    :)

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    @monquixote thanks for the backup on that.  I really need a tame drumist  and bassist, then we can get the groove thing going properly.  Sorry, oxymoron alert - did I really say "tame drumist"  ;)

    Does that make more sense @viz ?  Don't need any biblical retribution in my life  
    ;)

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  • vizviz Frets: 5514
    That is A OK with us mate :)
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  • mike_lmike_l Frets: 5672

    @ChrisMusic ; turn up any time. It's about getting up and playing rather than being the next guitar god....

     

    I'll say I've felt very under-gunned when playing with the likes of @viz and @bigjon but still did it. Even if you just play rhythm guitar and don't worry about playing any leads..

    Ringleader of the Cambridge cartel, pedal champ and king of the dirt boxes (down to 21) 

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    Thank you for the invitation @mike_l, and the words of encouragement too.

    As you have implied, it's about getting up and doing it, about the experience, and having some fun with it too.
    It would be an inspiration to play with other musicians again. Good advice me-thinks.  :)

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