pretty easy, right? Everyone will say: “practice.” But how
you practice is just as important as how much you
practice. If you practice thirty minutes a day and really
focus, you’ll see real, measurable improvement within a few
weeks or even days. If you practice—and really focus—for an
hour a day, you’ll see amazing improvement, and so will others.
stress enough how much the quality of your practice
affects your rate of improvement. If you play a piece from
beginning to end, stopping every third measure to fix a missed
note, you’ve done very little to improve.
In short, you need to focus
on what needs improvement, and to use the tools I give
you. If you do this, you will improve, and quickly.
take a small section and really work it, slowly and accurately, and
learn not just where and when to put your fingers, but when to
release them, and work that section only, listening to
what you're doing, you’ll soon be making real music.
important to recognize that there are several modes of
practicing; here are just a few:
section—possibly as few as two or three notes—to get it under
your fingers so you can play it accurately, and with as few
finger gymnastics as possible. Very often, knowing when and where
to release fingers is as important as knowing where to put them
in the first place.
exercises. This is just like lifting weights in order to
improve an athletic skill. We do these so that, for example, a
difficult finger placement or move isn’t so difficult. This
might be playing scales, working on a hammer-on or a pull-off,
playing three different strings in succession with a pick,
playing very loudly, stretching workouts (only on the instrument)
or a host of other exercises. The good news about these is that
they usually yield recognizable improvements in the ease of your
playing very quickly.
piece from start to finish, mistakes and all, so that you
develop the ability to get through it. Chet Atkins, when
asked what advice he’d give to aspiring young players, always
said (I’m paraphrasing here) “learn to get from the beginning of
the song to the end.” So many players, when playing for someone
else, make an error and go back and fix it. You can’t do that
and hold anyone’s attention. In a performance, or when you’re
playing with someone else, you are allowed to miss notes—everyone
does—but you’re not allowed to mess up the rhythm of the song.
That is, you can’t just arbitrarily add four beats or three
seconds to a song. So you need to work on getting from
beginning to end.
is all covered more thoroughly in another piece I wrote some
years ago called Musical Development 301: How to