Wilson Harwood, Banjo/Guitar/Bass Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Wilson Harwood

By Wilson Harwood, Banjo/Guitar/Bass Instructor at The Lesson Studio

I am sure we have all read books, been to classes, and heard our music teachers talk about practicing. I am going to add to the discussion in hopes that a simplistic approach may turn you on to the daunting task of practicing.

In Tina Lynn’s book, “What I wish I knew when I was 20” she states that things are best managed in threes. Using Tina’s advice I found that practicing is also best managed in tasks of three. Start your practice session with a warm-up.  Without warming up our tendons are too tight to play our instruments. They need to stretch and ease into our playing.  Warming up could be running through scales and arpeggios or it could mean playing a simple song that doesn’t require much strength.  The choice of  a warm up is up to you and is best if it is something you are working on. Examples of warm-ups include working on vocal pitch, exercises with a scale, or playing through the chords to a song.

After warming-up we move on to the second part of practice.  The goal is to focus.  I think everyone feels that they have so much to learn that 30 minutes of practice will never lead them anywhere.  The truth is that little steps towards a goal will be much more rewarding than trying to practice a handful of things at once.  For your second and third parts of practicing pick two things you really want to learn. This could be a technique, memorizing song lyrics, or working on a lead. The important part is to narrow exactly what it is that you want to accomplish. The more focused that goal is, the easier it is to practice.

Now that you have chosen a warm-up and two goals to work on you are ready to sit down and practice. Hear are some tips while practicing:

  • If you are feeling frustrated with one of your goals, move on to the next or take a break. Walk around the block and get some fresh air and then come back.
  • Engage your mind. Write on your music and try to visualize how you would play a part on your instrument. Interact with your music and try to avoid passive noodling around.
  • Practice without your instrument.  Listen to the songs you are learning. Test yourself by saying note names if you are learning to read music.  Practicing does not have to mean playing your instrument.

Here is the simple re-cap:

  1. Warm-UP
  2. Practice Goal 1
  3. Practice Goal 2

Its up to you how long you spend on each part.  Remember to practice the same goal at least three days in a row to really sink it in to your brain. Most of all have fun feeling that you are accomplishing your objectives.


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