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  • paco de lucia

    Music and Sport

    The Challenges of Becoming Good at the Guitar and 3 Tips To Help You Get Better

    by Simon James.

    Malcolm Gladwell states that:

    “Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.”

    And when I look at some of the master musicians that I’ve been fortunate to work with there is no denying that they have put in the hours in order to reach those lofty levels.

    It is not unusual for musicians to lock themselves away for 5 or 6 hours a day, practicing over and over until their muscles scream out for a break, obsessively playing the same riff or melody over until they have it perfect and sounding great. Apparently the great Paco De Lucia would be playing for up to 15 hours a day when he was young. These are the steps that have to be taken to become a true maestro on an instrument.

    I have heard tales of Michael Jordan practicing the same shot X number of times over and over until he was able to make it every time. He would start by doing 10 in a row and then work all the way up until 100, and every time he missed the shot he would stop and start the counter all over again. Just imagine your target is 100 in a row and you reach the 90s only to miss one and then have to start the count all over again! How about trying to do only 25, that’s quite a feat in itself!

    The same practice philosophy is extremely relevant in the world of music. The discipline and dedication required in order to really master complex guitar playing is very much akin to the world of sport and unfortunately if you can’t see that, then you are already out of the game!

    michael jordan

    Here are a few tip to help you apply the practice methods of the athlete to the practice methods of the musician!

    Do Things Slowly!

    You may have a good grasp of the material that your are playing in your head but this has to be translated to your fingers. This is where the muscle training comes in.

    Often in music you will be demanding your fingers to do things that they have never done before, so you must do them slowly! Muscle memory involves the same movement in the same way over and over and the more complex the study the slower you have to do it. It’s all about developing a good signal between your brain and your fingers and if you are consistently not hitting the notes cleanly then you need to slow down and try it again.

    This is such a simple and sensible concept to grasp yet I see so many musicians trying to practice at full tempo and consistently getting it wrong!

    Pick a Number

    When practicing something do it over and over on a loop so that you keep good rhythm and set yourself a target number of perfect loops. This number is entirely up to you and I am not suggesting that you must go for 100 perfect loops every time, but set yourself a goal and stick to it.

    For simple material I usually find that each student is able to get a decent grip on it within 3 or 4 attempts, but as the pieces get more complex this can often take a lot longer.

    FC Barcelona

    If you find that you are hitting your number every time, then you need to either up the tempo or up the loops. This method is extremely effective because it doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels!

    Keep Score

    Statistically, pupils always work harder when they have examinations coming up! The phrase “last chance saloon” is one that I find myself using every so often for added last minute impetus!

    Pushing yourself into doing exams and performances, even if it is just playing to your family, is a great way to ensure that you really carry out your studies with maximum efficiency. But even if performing isn’t your bag, keep a note of what you can do and what you have failed to do, and how long it took or is it taking. Try and push yourself to improve on those scores next time.

    Also, having someone, to “spar” with is great. If they are better than you are aim to be better than them and play with them as much as possible to raise your game. Healthy competition never did progress any harm!

    All of these disciplines are concerned with aiming high and trying to outreach yourself. The best musicians and students that I have all do the above three things and if you embrace these techniques you will see performance enhancing results!


    Related Posts:

    1. How To Learn New Chords

    2. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

    3. Beginners Guitar Course

    4. Practice Makes Perfect

    5. How To Develop Good Practice Habits