Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 1: Consistency
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.