practice, practice

Today I am climbing aboard my soapbox.  Whatever I have learnt about the guitar is a direct result of time spent practicing. There are no short cuts. You can take lessons, study other guitarists, watch videos and  trawl the internet. All of these pastimes will be instructive and may well  highlight  aspects of guitar playing for you to work on. But you have to work on it. You have to put in the hours. Thousands of hours.

This is true of any instrument, any language, any skill you want to master.

If you are prepared to practice, there is no limit to what you can learn to do. If its been done before, you can find a tutorial somewhere. If its never been done, then its your practice regime that will reveal the way to do it. Enough practice will take you to the rarified world of the pioneer. And there can never be enough practice.

If you dont practice, then you might as well quit now. You will never get any better. You will actually get worse because any joy you experience from your current ability will be short lived. After which you will feel more and more lousy about your limitations. And if you dont feel good you wont sound good.

I must qualify this by truthfully stating that I must be one of the laziest students to ever pick up a guitar. But that was a long time ago. By sheer stubbornness, I have stuck at it and achieved a modicum of professional ability.

Some time in my mid 20s, at a time when I was playing in the street for several hours a day, I realised that any ability I had developed was nothing to do with applied study and everything to do with just playing a lot of music. I resolved to begin some sort of structured improvement plan.

I am not undervaluing lots of playing. Hopefully everyone who has been playing for a while has had the experience of playing long into the night, not wanting to stop, because it just seems to be sounding better and better.

Also, playing in front of an audience is a separate skill that requires its own thousands of hours of practice. How to be comfortable playing live, and communicate effectively is a mystery only experience can unravel.

Practice should take place alongside the playing and the gigging. Even seasoned performers, if they are any good, feel compelled to improve technically, to learn new tricks, to get better at their particular skills.

What you work on, you can get help with. When it comes to application, you are on your own. Perhaps most importantly, you must get your hands on your instrument every day. Or at least 6 days a week. 15 minute a day is more valuable than one 2 hour session a week. How long you are able, or prepared to spend is a personal decision. We all have lives of some kind that require our attention. Great players are on record as saying, to paraphrase, ‘After 4 hours practice you begin to get somewhere, after 8 hours, you really begin to get somewhere, when you have been practicing for 12 hours, you reach a new level….etc…’

Most of us are unable to devote these amounts of time. What is paramount is regularity. Practicing every day will result in steady improvement. If you dont practice you will always disappoint yourself and anyone listening to you.

If this all sounds a bit grim, I have to say that you may quickly develop a love of practice. For me, the most difficult thing is to get started. Then within minutes, I am wondering what I was waiting for, as I set off on new adventures, happy and inspired to be doing what I feel I am meant to be doing.

So work out a regime that suits your life. And stick to it. You wont regret it.

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