Friday, 28 February 2014

An approach method to guitar practise that gets perfect results.

The advice outlined below is based upon my 27 years of teaching and observing the almost universally common psychology of the aspiring guitar student. It has been quite amazing to see over all these years that there is one common factor that hinders rapid progress.  
So common because it is simply due to human nature. If we want something, we tend to want it now or even yesterday.The desire and hunger to play the guitar well as soon as possible, although entirely understandable, can actually be the very thing that is holding you back. Let me explain. 

How many times have you looked at an example of guitar tab and began to attempt to play it before you have truly absorbed the information on the page?. What did it sound like? 
How many times did you repeat this action?, or maybe I should ask how much time did you waste ?

"You cannot play what you do not know".

Rushing in like this leads to the essential elements required to achieve your goal to be completely ignored and sacrificed. This makes the whole process needlessly long winded and very frustrating, for you and also for whoever might be listening to you!. 

The essential elements I mentioned are the combination of accuracy and rhythm. 
Without these all you have is a series of random sounds which are likely to be irritating to your own ears and uninspiring.

The following simple steps will enable you to achieve the desired goal of learning to play anything you want perfectly and in the shortest possible time. 

1. When looking at tab or notation for the first time, only consider a small section at a time, maybe just one bar. Study all the details, fingering, picking up or down, which string, which fret etc. Only when you are certain of exactly what you are meant to be doing, proceed to try and play it. 

2 . At first, you must play everything slowly. If something is new to you, it is impossible to play it accurately at speed. If you approach the task with haste you will almost inevitably make mistakes. Therefore you are practicing mistakes. Despite being played very slowly you might be surprised how "right" any musical phrase can sound if played with a strict adherence to the correct timing. Establish an understanding of how the notes sit against the beat.

3. Practice everything to a consistent beat. If possible use a metronome or a drum machine, count in your head, tap your foot.
Do not ignore this and play the sections you find easy, faster than the trickier parts. Do you recognize yourself in the previous statement?  
Remain focused on consistent tempo, relax and listen to the sound you are making. Possibly ask yourself, “ If someone else was playing this, would I enjoy listening to it?” 

4. Now very importantly, play the phrase you are working on over and over, to that consistent tempo so as to create a loop.
 Leave a one or two bar pause of silence between each attempt and then play it again. If it goes wrong just stop and give yourself that bar rest and start again on beat one. This creates a solid and relaxed structure for you to work with as opposed to an erratic approach which can cause confusion and frustration.

5 . Accuracy requires focus and patience. Once you are able to play something correctly, then and only then gradually increase the tempo until you arrive at the desired speed. Basically you are speeding up something that you have previously, fully learnt how to do. That is easy ! .The hard part  you've already done. Try doing this the other way around and it will inevitably fail. 

Within a short space of time, if  you are doing all of the above, you should find you are playing the music perfectly, and you will have achieved this by taking the quickest and I suspect most satisfying route.