Practicing Strategies

Many people play guitar for years and don't get very far with it because of how and what they practice. A lot of times people will practice bad habits (not knowing it) and get worse over time, and these things can be very frustrating. What I'd like to talk about is some helpful practice habits that will help you improve at a much faster rate and be more enjoyeable at the same time.

Everybody needs to practice technique at some point, how much technique you want to develop is really up to you. If you want to play fast and clean and be able to execute anything that is in your head at anytime then you will need to spend a lot of time on technique. On the other hand, if all you have are chops then your playing will be boring to listen to. and if you don't have good rhythm nobody will want you in their band. What I recomend is to divide your practice time into three or more parts.

Let's say you have an hour to practice today. Spend the first 20 minutes on warm up exercises, scales, patterns etc. and make sure to use a metronome or drum machine. After 20 minutes play something new that you are working on (by the way, always have something new that you are working on); the benefits from the first 20 minutes spent on technique will be really obvious here. Then for the last 20 minutes play what you know well (a favorite song or two), and saving the last few minutes to imporovise will help you a lot.

If this becomes a habit (meaning you do this every day) you will improve faster then if you spent three times as many hours mindlessly noodling and calling it practicing. if you have 3-5 hours or more to practice, great! But limit it to one hour stretches, and divide the time up. Being more efficient with my practice time over the years has really helped me develop. If I'm working on something and have a hard time with a certain part I will play it several times over (maybe for five minutes) take a deep breath relax and do another five minutes all the while playing it very slow and methodical and training my fingers to remember every movement. Then I'll move on to step three of my practice but make sure to work on the same part the next time. Some things will naturally take longer to learn then other things but, focusing on little things and getting them perfect will make everything you play better.

Mike O'Malley's instrumental power trio is called No Walls and their latest CD is entitled "World Abroad". He has been playing guitar for almost 30 years and graduated from Music Tech in Minneapolis in 1988.

O'Malley currently has 45 guitar students that range in all ability levels and styles.

Mike O'Malley