Establishing good practice habits

Updated on April 16, 2017 in Student's Corner
14 on November 6, 2016

As a BRAND NEW student I want to establish good habits early on. For example, I am committing to weekly lessons and daily hourly practice. But there is a lot more I could do and would like to hear from more experienced musicians about what they incorporate into their study?

Do you keep a journal – how do you organize it? Do you always practice a series of scales or arpeggios 10x before moving on? Please share what works for you?! 

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0 on November 7, 2016

First advice is always try to get a good teacher. Bad habits take a second to acquire, but a lifetime to get rid of. If there’s no one in your area, try skype.

For the rest it is a lot of open doors: follow a right hand exercise by a left hand exercise, avoid stress and tension in hands, arms, shoulders and back, stall a piece when it presents too many difficulties in a short stretch, try to visualise and memorise a piece from the start so you can concentrate on the techniques, use just enough pressure to make the notes sound well, minimise hand movements and so on.  

Don’t hesitate to ask anything. Welcome aboard and good luck. 

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4 on January 3, 2017

 

I’ve studied music at a university and have played professionally for over 30 years. I have never kept a journal. I have spent my life among musicians, and I have never known anyone who kept a journal. In fact, I have never known anyone who even knew anyone who kept a journal. So my opinion is that it isn’t necessary. Spend the time practicing

 

 

 

 

on February 11, 2017

FWIW, David Russell does.

on February 13, 2017

 

well, Kono, I was speaking from personal experience being among professional players for 40 years. But, if keeping a log is what you are set on, knock yourself out.

you do keep a log yourself, right? Tell me, what exactly do you log? Maybe I just never saw the point

For me it is a complete waste of time. I have never done it, or known anyone who has

ever.

but I  am not going to stop anybody from doing what they want to do.

 

on February 13, 2017

Oh, I wasn’t advocating for a log necessarily, I was just remembering reading that David Russell did say he found it useful. I have no beef in the matter, so to speak. What I remember why Russell said it was useful for him was that he had to keep many pieces ready to perform so he kept a log to make sure he gave them enough time before his next performance. I could imagine that a technique log could be used that way too. Make a list of technical exercises or sections of a piece you need to work on, then jot down at the end of the ssession which techniques or scales etc you practiced so that none of them fall by the wayside. But I would agree with you that doing the exercises in the first place is more important than keeping a log…

on February 14, 2017

I can see the application there. Thankfully, I don’t have a repertoire large enough that I’m presented with those sorts of problems.

I was thinking more along the lines of a training log for your practicing. I said I never kept one of those, and I haven’t for guitar, but years ago I used to race bicycles, and there were a couple years there that I kept a training log and sometimes even a training diary.

they did not make me any faster, but in other years it was interesting to go back and look at some of my training data, and it was interesting to read the ride journals. But I did not get back out near what I put in.

What it did do for me at the time was keep me focused, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if David Russell were to say in an interview that he washed his hair in clam broth, there would be guitarists the world over trading their shampoo for clam broth in an attempt to somehow play like David Russell, which is why I said  something

keeping a journal could help some people, but you can not keep one and be just as good a player

 

 

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1 on January 3, 2017

 

regarding practice habits…..

the secret to practice is ONE…work on ONE thing at a time, whatever that is.

There is not a single technical problem on guitar that 2 hours of scales a day won’t fix. Segovia is who said that, BTW.

you can learn technique from playing repertoire. So for example, if you are working on right hand patterns, play a piece that also has a lot of right hand work

if you are committed to an hour of practice a day and feel that you could do more, by all means practice more. When I was making a living playing, I practiced 8 hours a day. Even now, I play as an avocation these days, but I still practice 3 hours a day

so if you feel you can do more, don’t bother with a journal….that’s for writers. Musicians practice

on February 13, 2017

Very good advice. Especially the “ONE THING at a time”. If you have to learn fast arpeggios, might as well pick a piece that has them. If the left/right hand coordination is too challenging at first, practice the RH separately. Practice the left hand with block chords. One can turn any hard section in a piece into an exercise. Perhaps slurs are the one exercise that one can never do too much of, again though with absolute focus on doing them right rather than doing them fast and sloppy. I still need a lot of work on those.

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0 on January 5, 2017

On my site: http://www.openguitar.com/guitar-practice-howto.html

You cannot learn technique with repertoire alone. Only tech can give surety. A practice log is extremely valuable, and it will save many many times the amount of time it takes.

Regards, Rale

 

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1 on February 6, 2017

I’ve always felt my right hand was the weak link and over 15 years i always come back to villa-lobos’ etude #1 and giuliani’s 120 right hand studies (sounds scary, but its really not) when i think i need a tune-up. Of the 120 i only focus on one or two sets of 5 per session, and either is great warm-up material too!

As has been already said, practice with a specific purpose is always far more productive than straight rippin through tunes (but we all need that from time to time just to keep us sane 🙂 so, good luck!

Oh and only practice as fast as you can play perfectly, i should know, im a poster boy for rushing things and thats often how bad habits creep in. Speed is something that kind of comes on its own as you become more comfortable with the tech/material.

It can be especially hard if you’ve come from a background of electric guitar (like me) to not want to immediatly achieve the same relative proficiency, but half learning proper technique will cause issues down the road when you move onto more advanced material.

I’ve never kept a journal but in retrospect i think it would have helped me quite a bit, causing me to divide up my practice time more efficiently. I guess its never too late to start either, good idea

on February 6, 2017

Also for your last question; i would suggest adopting time frames as opposed to as you said “play a scale 10x” Its amazing how much progress you can make in only say, a half hour/day on one technique if you really concentrate while doing it and keep it up consistently (even just 15mins, the key is to focus on something specific. It’ll all come together in time.

Also *very important* Never compromise good tone production for speed or for any reason really, it should be priority #1 (Aaron Shearer has a good set that covers basics like posture, r.h. nails and free vs rest strokes) its stuff your teacher should be able to cover but supplements never hurt..
I believe the phrase “its not what you play but how you play it” applies more to classical guitar than virtually anything else (as we have such a wide range of options) so its good to keep that in mind.

Metronomes are always your friend during practice, whether or not you’d rather stretch a rhythm during performance. Practice vs performance “practicing” is a bit of a different mindset, logically you’d think practice is when you make more mistakes etc, but in truth its the opposite. It goes back to limiting your speed etc so when you rely on muscle memory it knows exactly what to do. And the guy above who suggested memorization first is 100% correct, your muscle memory is always the first thing that will fail you if you are very nervous when playing for an audience. However, it won’t fail if you’re able to visualize the notes and play from your brain and not your hands. (Im sure theres a better way to put that but w/e)
If you really Really want to learn a piece, try being able to write it out before ever touching a note on your guitar.Then slowly play it without ever missing a note, like so slow its almost unrecognizable. I personally find that a very decievingly difficult excercise, but it has a ton of merit to it. That may be a ways down the road when starting out, depending on how much theory you’re already familiar with. but it really is an immensly useful way to bring a tune to the next level. As well as if you or your teacher can analyze the chord progressions within songs (get him/her to go over it with you and understand the I IV V’s or whatever the case may be) it will make the memorization process far far less of a struggle. I also found it a ton of fun to start making sense of things beyond random notes and had many “eureka” moments during those sessions when the dots finally connected. Especially if you’re interested in learning and analyzing something like bach for ex. you’ll quickly realize that the rabbit hole goes far deeper than you ever imagined.

Theory also takes some practice and time spent applying it too, but its worth every minute, like when learning your multiplication tables as a kid theres a point it will become second nature, but these apply and will very significantly simplify virtually every single future musical endeavor you pursue, and very likely at the same time increase your enjoyment, due to a deeper understanding, throughout the entire journey. (it feels good to “get” why composers made/make the choices they do, which also gives you greater license in your interpretations imo) Theory is a really easy part to neglect on guitar, but you certainly don’t have to

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0 on February 10, 2017

As someone who suffered from bad practice habits, I can give you one word of advice. After a break in my plating of over a year, I began my old regimen of daily practice and spent too much time playing over the ensuing three months. As a result, I developed some tendinitis problems in my left hand, specifically the base of my left thumb. I’m dealing with that now. By way of saying, pay attention to technique, posture and use common sense in regards to your playing time. And, if pain starts to develop, deal with it immediately before it gets bad. That was my mistake. Best of luck for your future playing. I just rejoined the forum after being gone for a long time.

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0 on February 27, 2017

One more little trick i want to add to the book i wrote above, if you’re having trouble keeping your right hand in a good relaxed and ready position, try loosely holding a pencil with your pinky while you practice. Obviously its no good for some techniques (rasgueado etc.) but take for example something like your standard p a m i tremolo, it helped me quite a bit. And on that note for tremolo specifically, i personally found practicing the right hand backwards (p i m a) to be far more useful to improve both even timing and speed when returning to the usual method for performing, opposed to practicing the piece at hand all p a m i

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0 on April 16, 2017

Follow your teacher’s advice on practice routines. 

Also, there are plenty of websites with instruction and suggestions.  Check out as many as you like to start getting into the classical guitar world.  Take their advice that you find interesting to your teacher and again follow his advice.  You really won’t know what is appropriate for you until you get some experience.

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