The Art of Practicing Guitar

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As seen on Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 5

Having taught music lessons for over 12 years now, I see some reoccurring themes with my students and I find the most important one to address is “How to Practice”. 

It may sound like a simple thing, right? Just keep repeating and repeating something until you can perform it correctly, right? Well, it isn’t that simple. Without going too far down the wormhole about science and the way most human brains function, I have found a group of pointers that I offer to my students, which has helped them make the most out of their practice time. After all, practicing is a skill in itself, and it too will get easier with time and, of course, practice!

  1. Practicing time is quality over quantity: A very focused 5-10 minutes can yield more progress than a distracted and unfocused 30-minutes period. Find a quiet space where you can sit and practice without distraction. Turn off the TV, silence the cell phone, and get to it.
  2. Have a game plan: Know what you are trying to accomplish in your practice session. Are a few measures in a song holding you up? Make the goal to improve that passage, even if it’s ever so slight. A metronome is a great gauge to use to try to improve a song, exercise, or section of a song- it offers you tangible figures. For example,  when working on finger agility and running some scales, if you are running them comfortably at 110 beats per minute, try to push it to 120 or higher by the end of your practice session.
  3. Work material in sections:  Playing a song through and through and still making the same mistakes is a slow way to improve. Figure out which measures are giving you trouble. If it is one measure, an 8-bar block, a 16-bar block, or an entire song, start with one measure at a time. Once you feel good with that measure, move on to the next. After the next measure, add the previous measure, and so on and so forth until you piece it all together.
  4. It is all in the transition: Having smooth transitions from one part of a song to another can really make a song come together. This small detail can be often ignored, but it very important when trying to put entire songs together.
  5. The most important point of all: Be kind to yourself. Learning guitar, or any instrument for that matter takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t worry about it if that song doesn’t sound exactly like it does on the radio on day one, or even day 30. The more you practice and improve, the easier learning songs gets. At some point, you will want to learn more until you want to get your hands on anything you can learn. If you feel hung up on something, shelve it for a while and try something new. You will be surprised that, when you go back to it later, it will be a little easier than before.

That’s my advice on practicing guitar. It takes some self-discipline, but it is all for the cause. Being able to play guitar is a great ability to have. Take some chances, learn a song in a different style, remember to keep things fresh, and mix things up once in a while.

Until next time, Happy Strumming!!

SOURCEGuitar Girl Magazine Issue 5
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Born and Raised in Miami, FL, Vanessa started playing music at a young age. Progressing through high school, Vanessa was playing and performing on multiple instruments including guitar, piano and trumpet. She was awarded a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. During her time there, she studied the guitar playing of such influences as Pat Martino, Slash, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Eric Johnson and many others. After graduating with a degree in Music Business, she went on to work with such artists as Pat Metheny and Christian McBride. After years in the business end of the industry, she decided to pursue her own performing career and moved to Atlanta, GA. Once in Atlanta, she was playing with several groups, and doing recording sessions.  A year later, she was chosen as a finalist by Beyonce to audition for her all-girl backup band. Vanessa has traveled the world playing guitar, visiting countries such as France, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Japan, South America and the Caribbean. She has performed on the bill with such renown artists as Darius Rucker, LA Sno, KISS, Skid Row and Paramore. She is currently recording and performing as the front woman for rock trio, BAST. www.vanessaizabella.com

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