Practising Ideas


‘How much practice should I be doing?’

If you have ever asked me this, you will have seen me look a little uncomfortable and come up with a vague answer. This is because it is not that important. In fact, it is an easy question to answer, providing you are practising well, the more you do the better you will get. However, if you practise badly, the more you do, the worse you will get. Quality is far more important than quantity. A few minutes of focused practice will help you move forward. Unfortunately, I know from experience what hours and hours of incorrect practice can do to your playing…

Here are the most important points:
  • Work on your posture, make sure you are sitting correctly. Make sure you have all the equipment you need. This is the most important point. It is easy to fall into bad habits so make sure you are sitting on a solid chair, using your footstall, with your music stand at a comfortable height. Think about your arm positions, no slouching!
  • Make sure your guitar is in tune. It doesn’t take much for your guitar to be so out of tune that the notes come out ‘wrong’. Tune your guitar every time you play and it will not be a problem.
  • Make sure you read your practice diary and notice anything written on your music. If I have written on your music, it will be because I am trying to remind you of something important, so please don’t ignore it! Your practice diary will give you an outline of what you should be focusing on each week, with more detailed notes on the music itself.
  • Keep your nails short. Both hands to begin with, but it is essential that left hand nails are really short. If necessary, cut them before you play.
  • Practise somewhere quiet, away from distractions.
  • Write a note in your practice diary if anything causes you problems. You can ask me at the next lesson or email me for advice.
  • Set yourself goals for your practice session, don’t be too ambitious. You should feel you have achieved something. Set yourself a very small target when you pick the guitar up, maybe to perfect a particular phrase. Keep working until it is right. If it takes too long, then maybe you should choose a smaller section next time.
  • Work on relevant pieces and exercises

There is a difference between practising and playing.

Be very careful if you tell a musician that you have just practised for half an hour/two hours/half a day. There is a chance they will say 'ah, but were you really practising or were you just playing?' This is always really annoying but there is actually a difference: When you practise, you are making an effort to be a better guitarist. When you play, you are just having fun, playing through old favourites. There is nothing wrong with playing, but remember that it may not be helping you to improve. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your practice time:
  • Work in sections. Do not play through your pieces! It is a really inefficient way to practise. Choose a section that I have suggested or you know you wish to improve. It should not be more than eight bars long. Play it through, then home in on smaller parts of the section, even on the change between two notes if necessary. Play until you are happy with your section.
  • Record yourself and play for other people. This is a great way of making you aware how you are getting on with a piece. Listen to what other people tell you about your playing, don’t sulk!
  • Keep a diary of what you have done. This is a great way of keeping track of your progress and learning which techniques work best for you. You could make a note of your goal each time you practise, how long you played for, whether you achieved your target and what you think you should practise next
  • Little and Often. This is my only time related tip. Five minutes a day is better than one long practice session a week.