A Word About Practice

The number one reason students don't succeed at learning guitar (or any instrument) is failure to practice. I harp on my students constantly about the importance of daily practice habits. The world we live in is full of all sorts of distractions pulling us away from practice. Yet much of the noise is just that, noise. The internet is a bottomless pit of information. It is easy to spend 10 to 20 minutes searching for just the right tutorial or to follow links that take us further down into the topic we are searching. Don't get me wrong, the information is wonderful. It can just be overwhelming if we aren't careful. while there is a balance to be found between listening to musicians that inspire us, watching tutorials, gaining life lessons and practicing, there is no substitute for time spent with your hands on your instrument, period.

If you spend 2 hours every day searching YouTube for the perfect guitar lesson, you will get good at searching YouTube. If you spend 2 hours every day watching television, you will get good at watching television. If you spend 2 hours every day practicing guitar, guess what. You will get good at playing guitar. But it must be daily.

Daily is the magic formula, the secret trick, the shortcut. No musician improves without daily practice. I will repeat that. No musician improves without daily practice. Our brain's cognitive pathways need to be exercised daily in order to keep them clear. Think of a path through the woods. The first time it is traveled, it is full of brush, limbs, loose ground and leaves. The more it is walked, the ground firms, the brush and limbs get broken off or pulled away. The leaves decompose and become dirt on the trail. After the trail is walked many times, it becomes faster and easier to travel. However, if it is not traveled regularly, the limbs and brush begin to return and the path becomes grown up and difficult to travel again. This is very similar to how our brain's cognitive pathways work. We must keep them clear to remember chords, scales, songs and licks. One more time; No musician improves without daily practice.

It stands to reason then, that the sooner after the lesson one practices, the better their chances of remembering the details of the lesson. I can always tell when a student studied all week versus when a student has attempted to cram the day before (or even the day of) their lesson. For example; if a student has a Tuesday lesson and practices for just a few minutes on Tuesday night before bed, that lesson will be fresh on Wednesday. When that student practices on Wednesday, the lesson will be fresh on Thursday and so on. On the flip side to that, when a student has a lesson on Tuesday and doesn't practice the lesson until the following Monday night, an entire week's worth of TV shows, sports events, church services, homework, social media, meals and any other type of data has clogged the students cognition. In other words, a week's worth of brush and limbs have grown in the path. In many cases, when the student enters their Tuesday lesson, s/he is further behind than when s/he walked out of the lesson the week before.

This is incredibly frustrating for the teacher as well as the person(s) paying for the lessons and ultimately the student. The teacher wants his/her students to succeed, not only for the personal satisfaction of watching a fellow human grow but let's be blunt, a teacher's reputation depends on the success rate of their students. The person(s) paying for the lessons want to see and hear results as well. For most people, lessons are a noticeable chunk out of the monthly budget. Although we all realize learning music takes time, why continue if the results aren't coming? And finally, no one suffers from lack of practice more than the student. Not only are they getting the third degree from the teacher. s/he is having to go over the same material yet again. They feel a sense of failure and they begin to dread lessons because they know they are unprepared. I have often had students cancel their lesson due to lack of practice. This is the worst thing a student can do. Go to the lesson. Face the music and at least get that practice. Then, do better next week.

I encourage students to discipline themselves to turn off the distractions. Make time for daily practice, even if it's only 15 to 20 minutes. Remember, "DAILY" is the magic trick. Parents and guardians, help your student with this. They may put up a struggle but they will thank you and respect you in the long run. Let us not forget in this world of instant gratification that it is in fact a long run and those who are strong enough to implement the 3 P's (patience, practice and perseverance) will gain a much deeper sense of gratification.

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