6 Common Guitar Practice Mistakes That are Holding You Back…
So we’ve talked quite a bit about practice in these articles. We’ve gone over how practice is a skill in itself and, if you’re looking to master guitar, the simple act of practicing is not enough. Now, let’s talk about 6 common practice mistakes and the remedy.
It’s important to pay attention to your practice methods and determine what is working and what is not. If you’ve been practicing the same way for years and you haven’t seen serious progress, it’s clear that you haven’t approached practicing correctly. Thankfully, it’s never too late to remedy.
Let’s take a look at what most guitarists get wrong about practice…
1. Jam Practice
If you practice the guitar by picking it up when you feel like it and then only “practice” what you feel like – you aren’t practicing. You’re jamming.
Now, “jamming” has its own benefits and isn’t something you should stop doing. Beyond being enjoyable, it allows you to think more laterally and make connections you might not make otherwise. However, it can never be seen as a replacement for actual practice.
If you don’t dedicate consistent time to honing in on specific techniques or sections, you will never master the instrument.
If you try to increase your speed by simply attempting to play something as fast as you can, you’re actually doing serious harm to your ability to play the guitar with any degree of accuracy or fluidity. It would be better to never try to play anything quickly then to attempt to force it. Whatever way you repeat something is how you teach your muscle memory and subconscious to learn it.
If you cement bad playing habits, your playing will always be sloppy.
There is a correct way to increase your speed and you should never ignore it. Practice with a metronome and always begin with a speed that makes it easy to play something 100% perfectly and then gradually increase the speed.
If you practice it “perfectly,” you will play it “perfectly.”
3. Sans Compass
If you don’t have a clear direction of where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Having some kind of structure that tells you what you should be practicing, how much and when, is very important. But setting clear goals for your guitar practice is absolutely critical.
If you don’t have something in place that lets you know immediately if you are achieving the proper results or not, the future of your guitar skill is like a feather in a windstorm.
4. Leaving things unfinished
If you’re in the habit of jumping from one thing to the next without ever perfecting anything, it’s important to stop and reevaluate your approach.
And I mean, like right now.
This habit simply destroys your ability to progress on the guitar. Don’t allow it to continue for even one more moment. You must clearly define what you’re working towards, hone in on it and stick to it until you’ve reached the finish line.
This problem is extremely common and there are a number of potential causes of it. One is that you probably don’t have a clear hierarchy of goals. It also could be the result of attempting things that are either too difficult or too easy for your current skill level. And that brings us to…
5. Practicing outside your skill level
The only time you should ever leave something unfinished on the guitar is when you’ve recognized that you’ve started on something too difficult for your current skill level.
It’s critical that you find the right level of difficulty for your practice. If it’s too challenging, you’ll get frustrated. If it’s too easy, you’ll get bored. The more you pay attention to this, the better you will become at judging what you should be practicing and how you should be formatting your practice.
If you are constantly working on things that are frustratingly difficult for you, all you will achieve is an association of frustration with practice.
When that happens, you’re in trouble.
6. Trying to learn it all at once
For the final entry here we have a category that can apply to two separate practicing mistakes. The first is overloading yourself with too many different techniques to learn all at one time. The second is trying to learn an entire song or solo without breaking it up into digestible sections.
Training your muscle memory requires a great deal of repetition on its own. If you never take the time to hone in on one technique or section, you never give your brain the ability to lock it into place.
Another thing that’s important to understand about how practice leads to mastery is the mind’s ability to continue practicing something after you put down the guitar. This has been studied extensively. If you practice one thing with extreme repetition, you will double the benefit of that practice time when you sleep on it. However, if you split your focus among a wide variety of things, your mind will have no direction to focus on and you’ll simply miss out on the most powerful tool for mastery there is.
Next week I’ll be back with a “practice check list” to help ensure that you are utilizing your practice time correctly and help you to get optimal results.
If you need some new inspiration, check out my brand-new album “Nonlinear Evolution” released just this past week. It can be found on Spotify, iTunes and most digital distribution platforms.
This article is by Metal Method Instructor and shred master Dan Mumm. Dan Metal Method lessons can be found here