Practice - some love it, some hate it. But if you want to really master your instrument (be it guitar, ukelele or mandolin), there’s a way you can set yourself up for success.
Following some straightforward guidelines are key having great practice sessions, and ultimately great performances. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your practice sessions are fun and productive.
Do a Warmup
Whether you’ve been playing for five days or fifteen years, a warmup is critical to preparing your mind and your hands for what you want to accomplish in your practice session on a given day.
Scales and other drills make great warm-ups that help your hands work smoothly up and down the fretboard of your instrument and prepare you for lead work.
While many musicians love to hate scales, they can actually improve your musical ear and help you to create leads in the long run, not to mention, improve your sense of timing. You can use a scale book or learn to play them by ear, which will challenge your ability to hear and feel music, and not only read notes off of a page.
Practicing challenging chords by playing them slowly, such as barre chords, is also a great technique that will allow you to be sure that you are playing each note with clarity. Aim to fret the chord shape in one go, rather than one finger at a time.
Have a Specific Goal in Mind
It’s great to have jam sessions from time to time, and practice sessions sometimes do take on a more relaxed, jam session feel, however, it’s important to set goals and know what you’d like to accomplish a month from now and by the end of an individual practice session.
For example, your long-term goal may be to play “Stairway to Heaven”, but your practice goal for the day could look something like working on the rhythm of the finger picking in the intro.
Breaking down your musical goals like this can save you a lot of frustration and provide you with a sense of accomplishment each time you rehearse. When you break apart the pieces of a song into little chunks, you can learn each part well, and ultimately put them back together to create an awesome sound with your instrument.
Write it Down
It’s always a good idea to write down just a couple of sentences during each practice session to help you pick up where you left off for next time.
Use your smartphone, or a notebook to record problem areas, solutions that have helped you, new songs you’d like to play, and so much more. You don’t have to write a lot, but it will help you jog your memory and track your progress. Just store your notebook in your instrument case if that’s what you prefer to record your thoughts in.
Close out your practice sessions with a song or piece you enjoy playing or by improvising with others.
Listen to a recording of the song you’re practicing. Jot down some ideas or techniques to try for your next practice session. Just relax by appreciating how much you’ve accomplished, and celebrate the small successes.
Try some of these practice suggestions for your next rehearsal, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in an hour!