Pro Tip #14: Tips On How To Practice

It’s not a no brainier.
by Sam Wilder

How many times have you wished you could be better at your instrument? Or wished you could be a better singer? We all know that the best way to get better is to practice our craft. It’s the biggest no-brainer there is about being a musician. To get better, one has to practice. I’ve read interviews with some of the world’s best musicians and they’re quoted all the time saying things like “I practiced 8 hours a day.” or “I even practice my guitar on the toilet.” That’s all good and fine but how many of us really have that kind of time, or actually want to practice on the toilet? Not me, but I have found a couple ways to practice that really work and won’t take all your time.

   I’m going to give you a quick list of practice tips today that really work for me when it comes to practicing my guitar. Here they are:

1. Make it easy to pick up your instrument.
2. Have something to practice.
3. Practice a little every day.
4. Practice to a beat.
5. Practice with other people.
6. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

   That’s a simple little list right? It’s easy and it works!

1.   First of all make sure you can get to your instrument easily. I don’t like to have to set up my amp, dig my guitar out of it’s case, find a strap or track down picks everytime I want to practice. I always have a guitar and amp set up right by my computer. The guitar has a strap on it and picks sitting by it. It’s within arms reach even while I’m typing this. I can grab that guitar anytime I want and play it. So invest in a permanent practice setup if you don’t have one already.

2.   Next, make sure you have something to practice. You don’t always have to practice a scale or particular song but it’s good to have a list of things you want to learn or work on. I keep a couple Guitar Player magazines sitting around which are full of lessons I can work on. It’s fine if you just want to pick up your guitar and noodle. The important thing is to play.

3.   Now that you have something setup all the time that’s easy to get to, and you have something to practice. Grab that instrument and play it! You can play for 5 minutes and that will be 5 minutes more practice than you would have gotten if you hadn’t picked up that instrument at all. If you pick up your instrument for 5 minutes, 4 times a day, then you have just completed 20 minutes a day of practice. Just do a little here and there and those practice times will increase and so will your skill.

4.   It’s a great idea to practice as much as possible to a beat or track. The track is what keeps you in sync with all the other musicians in the band. If you practice too much without a track/beat you will struggle to play with other musicians. It’s not fun at all if you can’t stay together with your band because you can’t play on the beat.

5.   Finally, practice with other people. Nothing is more fun than sitting around jamming. Jamming is learning on a very high level. You learn about your abilities and you learn tips and tricks from those around you as well. After all the best way to get better is to play with people better than you. You’ll also learn how to function with other musicians and that increases your skill level for playing live with your band.

6.   Playing something correctly once isn’t enough, especially if you’ve played it incorrectly several times before that. The human body cannot distinguish between “right” and “wrong” it only remembers what you have done repeatedly. In other words, if you make the same mistake 10 times and then play it correctly once, your body will remember the mistake instead of the correct version. It has been said that for every wrong performance of a song the brain needs 25 correct repetitions to “undo” what it has learned.

   I promise if you follow these tips, your skills will increase by leaps and bounds. Then one day when you’re giving an interview and the interviewer asks you how you got to be so skilled on your instrument you can say, “I practiced 8 hours a day…on the toilet!” 

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