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Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in Practice, Recommended Articles | 0 comments

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 5: Accessibility

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners, Part 5

Successful practicing has as much to with your mindset as your efforts, so it is important to understand how you should approach your practicing both mentally and physically.  In my last few blogs, I have been offering some suggestions and wisdom from my own experiences as a player and instructor to help you practice smarter and be a better player as a result.  This last blog in this five part series deals with a very important key to your success as a musician:  Instrument Accessibility.

“Out of sight, out of mind,” is a very old saying, but a more truthful saying could not be found concerning  your instrument being the last thing you think about during a typical day.  You may decide after you purchase that beautiful and shiny new guitar that you should keep it in your case so it doesn’t get damaged, dusty, etc.   While those are the best of intentions, you will likely end up with a shiny, but unplayed, guitar that stays in the case more often than not.  You need to keep your guitar close at hand—not tucked away in its case perhaps under your bed.  If that instrument stays in view, it will definitely increase the likelihood of being picked up and played by you.  The whole idea is to get that instrument in your hands as often as possible, and making it more accessible is the key. 

Guitar StandThe best thing to do is to keep your guitar or other instrument in a stand close by where you relax.  Guitar stands are very inexpensive, and you will be amazed at how much more you will play your instrument if it is right next to your favorite chair!  For families with children or pets, putting an instrument in a floor stand may not be the best option.  However, you don’t have to pack it away.  Guitar Wall Stand

You may pick from a variety of wall-mounted instrument hangers/holders that are available for purchase online or at your local music store.  These keep your guitar safe from little hands, and from being bumped or tripped over.

In short, make it easy for yourself to play.  That guitar sitting in a stand— begging to be played— is a reminder for you.  If it’s in a case, you simply won’t think about playing it nearly as much.  Keep that instrument in sight, and it’ll stay in your mind!

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

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Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in Practice, Recommended Articles | 0 comments

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 4: Balanced Approach

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners, Part 4

Successful practicing has as much to with your mindset as your efforts, so it is important to understand how you should approach your practicing both mentally and physically.  In my next few blogs, I will be offering some suggestions and wisdom from my own experiences as a player and instructor to help you practice smarter and be a better player as a result.

If you are not a member of thegospelworkshop.com, I encourage you to join today!  Whether  you are a member or a prospective member, please read this VERY carefully.  Sometimes a TGW student will send me a comment like this:  “I’ve done all the lessons already.  When will there be more lessons available on the website?”  When I investigate the situation and find out that this student is a rank beginner and has only been a member for a couple of months or so, I know something has gone wrong.   In actuality, they watched the lessons but did not master the techniques in the lessons.  Mastering all of the music and material presented would mean that the student can play all of it up-to-speed and as clearly and cleanly as the instructor played it.  When they show me their progress, all becomes quite clear.  They still have a long way to go.  The things covered in the TGW Beginner and Intermediate series took me several years of work and practice to master.  The amount of time and practice that it takes to become an accomplished player varies from person to person, but it will take even the most gifted person a substantial amount of time and practice.

On the other hand, a person must not bog down in a lesson and never go on to the next lesson.  This can have a discouraging effect because some techniques can take more practice and time than others.  A balanced approach is necessary.  If you have a certain technique that you have practiced consistently (and I stress consistently) and have not mastered it, then go on to the next lesson while continuing to practice the harder technique until you master it.  It took me three years to master “barre chords,” so don’t get discouraged if you feel that you aren’t progressing as quickly as you thought you would.  Watching an accomplished musician can make playing an instrument look a lot easier than it really is, but understand that EVERY musician has been where you are, and use that knowledge as motivation.  Just continue to practice and be patient, and you will reap the rewards!

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

 

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Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in Practice, Recommended Articles | 0 comments

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 3: Play Along

Essential Practice Tips for Beginning Guitarists

Successful practicing has as much to with your mindset as your efforts, so it is important to understand how to approach your practice time, both mentally and physically.  In my next few blogs, I will be offering some suggestions and wisdom from my own experiences as a player and instructor to help you practice smarter and be a better player as a result.

You should play along with your teacher.  This is an important advantage our students enjoy at thegospelworkshop.com.  Being able to play along with your teacher whenever and as often as you wish is a tremendous benefit which cannot be over-emphasized!  As I’ve talked with fellow-teachers over the years, the one common fact upon which we all agree, is that every week teachers have to re-teach half of the previous week’s lesson and sometimes the entire lesson.  There are two reasons for this.  One is lack of practice which is totally the student’s responsibility (If the student is young, the parents share in this responsibility), but the second reason is much more difficult to deal with for both student and teacher.  The second issue is that the student’s progress is not necessarily hindered by a lack of practice, but because students don’t have the opportunity to play what they’ve already learned “along with” someone else–especially someone like their instructor who can play the music properly.  Consider these facts:

1.  Without the teacher being present, you don’t get to hear how the song is supposed to sound or see how the techniques are done.  You are of course able to hear and see whatever you are learning at the one-time-a-week lesson, but you don’t get to take the teacher home with you.  Because you cannot continuously refresh your memory, you tend to forget important details about how to play the piece correctly.

2.  Playing along with your teacher helps speed up results and helps you truly master each step.  Getting repetition into your practice is critical to your improvement and, while there is certainly a time for practicing totally by yourself, having the chance to play with another person helps you practice better.  Playing along with your teacher helps to build confidence because you always know that the music you’re playing along with is, in fact, being played correctly.  It helps your playing by having that learning reference to which you can repeatedly come back.  It also helps you by exposing your flaws and showing you where you need to improve.  You simply are able to compare your notes and sounds to what the instructor is playing.  Playing with the right feel, good timing, using the right fingers and positions, etc., are all things that you can pick up by playing along with your teacher.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

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Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Practice, Recommended Articles | 0 comments

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 2: Work

Essential Practice Tips for the Beginner

Successful practicing has as much to with your mindset as your efforts, so it is important to understand how you should approach your practicing both mentally and physically.  In my next few blogs, I will be offering some suggestions and wisdom from my own experiences as a player and instructor to help you practice smarter and be a better player as a result.

Playing music is one of the most fun and fulfilling things I’ve ever done, but I will be the first to tell you that you have to work at it, and sometimes it can be very hard work.  One of the biggest mistakes beginners make when learning is that they don’t realize what it really takes to master songs and techniques.  You must not have too narrow of a scope when it comes to the amount of effort and practice time and repetition it takes to achieve and master your goals.

Most think that to practice a song or technique 5-10 times a day for a couple of days is all that is necessary.  While that amount of reps is definitely better than nothing and may even result in some modest improvement, real mastery at times may require 100-200 reps or even more over several weeks or months.   It is important that you don’t set a limited number of reps to complete, but rather that you realize that few reps are not enough.  Quite frankly, I have encountered students who had the misconception that after a few short practice sessions—whether or not they had really mastered the material or techniques taught—they could become accomplished musicians.  This just does not happen.  Simply stated, you practice until you get it down.

One other helpful tip, especially when learning a new solo, is to practice it piece by piece.  It is good to rough out the song by playing through the complete solo from beginning to end a couple of times.  That way you get somewhat familiar with the song you’re learning, even if you just barely can plunk your way through it.  Then start over from the beginning and work your way through the piece phrase by phrase, mastering each phrase and then connecting each one together, until you have finished the song.  Soon, you will have a fine sounding solo.

Music, when really taken seriously, is a life-long endeavor.  All dedicated musicians are constantly reaching for excellence in their music.  But the rewards down the road which result from that dedication and work are so satisfying.  Put in the work, and you will agree.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

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Posted by on Feb 5, 2016 in Practice, Recommended Articles | 0 comments

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 1: Consistency

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners

Successful practicing has as much to with your mindset as your efforts, so it is important to understand how you should approach your practicing both mentally and physically.  In my next few blogs, I will be offering some suggestions and wisdom from my own experiences as a player and instructor to help you practice smarter and be a better player as a result.

Consistency is a huge key to good practice.  Consistent practice is better than occasional binge practicing.  Life is busy for all of us.  Church, jobs, school, sports, and hobbies—all can add up to mean very little time left for practicing.  It is so easy to let several days of missed practice become several weeks or months without picking up your instrument.  It is very important to practice on a consistent basis.  Do you have to practice every day?  No, but I highly recommend it!  It is better to practice 15-30 minutes a day than to practice 2-3 hours once a week.  Now, of course any kind of practice is better than none, but consistent, every day or nearly every day practice will help you improve more.  Here’s why:

1.  When you practice often, your muscle memory is trained much faster, and you are able to learn your chords, techniques, etc., more quickly.  With regular practice, your fingers get stronger and stay more flexible, and you will find your fingers somehow start developing this certain “instinct” about where they are supposed to be.

2.  Consistent practice helps you learn and remember material.  One huge mistake that players make is to practice with the mindset of school semesters.  In other words, they will work and practice during the fall and winter and spring, but they will take several months off during late spring and summer.  In fact, many private music teachers now only teach during the school year.  This problem tends to create an attitude in most players that causes them to barely touch their instrument during those summer months.  This causes them a gigantic set back in their playing.  Their muscle memory suffers badly, and they soon find that they cannot play their music with the same speed, tone, clarity, and good technique they enjoyed before the layoff.

3.  Not practicing can actually be a pain—literally!  If you play a steel stringed instrument like an acoustic guitar or mandolin, you know that it actually hurts your fingers to play at first.  After a couple of months of consistent practicing, your fingers begin to toughen up and develop calluses.  These calluses allow you to play with complete comfort and no pain.  However, calluses soften when you don’t play, so once you get them, you must play to keep them.  Even a seasoned musician can begin to lose his calluses if he goes a long while without playing.  The problem for many beginning players is that they never really build good calluses in the first place.  They aren’t consistent with their practicing, so their fingers never quit hurting.  You can take longer breaks from practice once you build good calluses, but when you are developing them, you MUST practice consistently to eliminate the finger discomfort.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

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