Perfect Guitar Practice by Dan Mumm
Guitar practice is a subject that has just about a million different angles to discuss. Arguably the most important of all of them is in regards to the phrase “practice makes perfect” – or what I would change to “perfect practice makes perfect”
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you’ve no doubt heard me talk about this on several occasions. Chances are, you will hear it on several more. That’s no accident. This is the sort of information that is easy to understand, easy to apply and just as easy to forget.
Taking this advice on a few occasions isn’t enough to make any lasting impact on your practice and overall results. It’s necessary to hammer this philosophy into your mind through repetition and make it a standard part of your approach to practice. Any lapse on it and you can fall right back to the same problems that have impeded your progress for so long.
It’s simple to understand and there’s nothing about it that requires special knowledge to believe it’s true. When you hear it, it seems like common sense. It goes something like this:
“Whatever you practice through repetition is how your muscle memory learns to play it. If you practice sloppy, your playing will always be sloppy. If you practice with perfect technique and articulation, your playing will always have perfect technique and articulation.”
It’s as simple as that. So how do you practice something new with perfect technique and articulation? It sounds impossible, right? I mean, you’re still learning it. There has to be some room for error..
What does it take to play perfectly?
It’s true that you have to know the basic elements of something before you can play it perfectly. If you’ve never learned how to alternate pick, then trying to learn an alternate picked shred run is a bad idea. You have to take things in the right order. But if all the fundamental pieces are in the right place, you can practice anything new with absolute perfection.
It’s all about memorizing a section of what you’re learning, as small as it needs to be, and then practicing it as slow as you need to in order to always play it perfectly.
Imagine that you are learning a shred pattern that ascends through all 6 strings on the guitar. What are the things you need to be able to do in order to play it perfectly? Well first of all, you need to have enough strength and dexterity in your fingers to be able to fret the notes properly. That’s pretty basic. The same thing is true for being able to alternate pick with string changes. You need to know or figure out the proper fingering and you might need to shift positions during the pattern. You definitely need to have the pattern memorized before you start seriously practicing it.
Each of those pieces can be practiced on their own, then combined together and so on and so forth. You could start by practicing alternate picking by itself with the metronome at an extremely slow speed, so your timing is exact. Incrementally increase the tempo, and continue up until the basic alternate picking is comfortable. Then practice repeating just the notes on the 6th string with the metronome, the same way you did with the alternate picking. Add the next string and then combine it all together. Then start on the 4th string and repeat the process. Combine those two sections together, and so on. By the time you get to the end, you will have the pattern down with absolute precision. It will be perfect. Then you can practice the whole pattern with the metronome in order to slowly and steadily increase the speed to where it needs to be.
You should be doing this for everything that you learn. It might seem tedious or time consuming, but the process will get exponentially faster over time. If you do this absolutely consistently, then before you know it, you will be able to play most things on the guitar without having to practice very much at all.
I diligently worked with this method, and still do when it’s required. Now, when I write or take on a new song, I typically have the entire song perfected within two days. Sometimes, this includes new techniques and challenging sections. And that’s without having to spend much time on either of those days. Just enough to memorize the song and enough repetition so my subconscious practices it while I sleep. The next day, it’s pretty much ready to go. You will eventually achieve the same results if you follow this method exactly. The trick is to never take shortcuts… ever.
The secret to perfect guitar practice is simple
Just remember this: it’s not “practice makes perfect” but “perfect practice makes perfect.”
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