Tuesday, October 04, 2005

GUITAR PRACTICE (Part 2) - Does Practice Make Perfect?

Here's another part two of the guitar practice series from Kathy Unruh.

By: Kathy Unruh

You've probably heard the saying "practice makes perfect" and
it sounds true enough, but is it really? We all know the
importance of practicing a new skill in order to become
proficient at it. This is especially true when it comes to
playing the guitar, or any other musical instrument for that
matter. But, practicing incorrectly can actually be a detriment
to your progress. How is that you say? Because you will continue
to reinforce whatever it is you practice. So, if you always
practice doing something the wrong way, you will end up with the
wrong result. For example, if you practice holding your hands in
a poor position, it will eventually become a habit that will be
difficult to correct. Poor position of either your right or left
hand when practicing the guitar can create tension, thus making
certain techniques more difficult to execute. Poor hand position
can also increase the possibility of developing injuries that
are somewhat common to musicians, such as Carpal Tunnel
Syndrome. This is a very debilitating injury of the wrist which
can bring your guitar playing to a complete halt. When
practicing, use a "cupped" hand instead of a "flat" hand to help
promote a good relaxed position.

Another problem area for some students regarding guitar
practice, is rhythm. Rhythm is so foundational to every aspect
of music that I really can't stress its importance enough.
Whether or not you know how to read music isn't the issue. But
you absolutely should try to learn how to count the beats within
a given measure of music in order to play the piece correctly.
If you can't keep time, no one will really be able to tell what
you're playing anyway. It will also be very difficult for you to
play along in a band, or with other musicians who just want to

Speed is one of the biggest practice obstacles I see among my
students. When speed is king, rhythm and timing are often
sacrificed. It is absolutely necessary to SLOW DOWN in
order to interpret the timing correctly, especially if it
is a fast lick or strumming pattern. Speed also effects
articulation, which simply means "to pronounce
distinctly." What good is it if you can play something real
fast,but do it poorly? Who is going to be impressed with that?
Instead, take your time and practice playing each tone clearly,
at a speed that is comfortable for you. Try using a metronome or
drum machine to set a tempo. Then practice short "speed bursts"
one section at a time. Keep increasing the speed until you can
play the entire lick, riff or measure, etc. at the desired
tempo. But, do not sacrifice Hand Position, Rhythm or
in the process. These three things should
receive top priority when practicing the guitar. After they are
well established, work on the speed or tempo of the music.

Knowing what finger position to use when playing notes on the
guitar fretboard is also important. If you use a haphazard or
random approach, you will likely become confused and disoriented
as you begin to move around. I tell my new students that the
guitar is "upside down and backword" to give them some idea of
what they're facing when it comes to learning the notes on the
fretboard. Meaning that the guitar is played both horizontally
and vertically, as opposed to the piano which is a linear
instrument. When learning to read notes on the guitar, you must
flip it upside down to match it to a fretboard diagram. Down is
up and up is down when referring to direction and how it relates
to the pitch of each string.

To sum things up:

1. Start Slowly

2. Develop a relaxed "cupped" hand position

4. Learn how to interpret the rhythm (timing)

5. Emphasize articulation (clarity)

6. Gradually increase speed (tempo)

So, it is true that "practice makes perfect" if you learn to
develop a "perfect" practice routine. In order to do this, you
will need to work on establishing your priorities and developing
good practice habits. Realize that it takes time to become a
good musician so don't rush the process, instead, embrace it and
enjoy it. If you keep these ideas in mind you should see a
steady, progressive improvement of your overall playing in a
relatively short time. You will also discover that when you
develop good habits, you automatically develop good technique.
Once you have established good technique, playing the guitar
will seem much easier and that will make it all worthwhile in
the long run.

About the author:
Kathy Unruh is a singer/songwriter and webmaster
of ABC Learn Guitar. She has been writing songs and
providing guitar lessons to students of all ages for over 20
years. For free guitar lessons, plus tips and resources on
buying a guitar, songwriting, recording and creating a music
career, please visit: http://www.abclearnguitar.com

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