Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 2: Work
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.