Goal Awareness and Practicing
By: Jim Rutkowski
In this article there is no playing, just some advice from me to you. If you are reading this article it means that you want to be a better player. There is a simple secret to being the best you can be. It is effective practicing. Just playing licks and songs will not make you a musician. It's not effective practicing. Effective practicing is deeper than that. If you want to practice effectively you need to have a game plan. So let’s get you going on one.
First off, figure out your goals. Maybe its chord work, scales, or arpeggios. Make a list of things you want to improve on. Also, take a hard look at your playing, where are your weaknesses? We all have them. They are our own inadequacies. You have to deal with them as if they were little demons on your back. My own philosophy is to make my weaknesses my strengths. Then set a goal date, when you want to have your goals mastered.
Next, make a list of all your free time for each week for one month. See your schedule. Now, cut your free time in half. Be realistic, you do use the bathroom and hopefully you do eat too. Now look at the time you have and the goals you have. You may need to adjust your schedule, or modify your goal of how soon you want to master your goals. Reality is a cold hard fact; it takes time to make your goals come to be a reality.
Once you have set up your game plan it come down to effective practicing to achieve your goal. The key here is a metronome. I tell my students all the time that an hour of practice without a metronome is an hour wasted. The metronome will show you your weakness, your progress, and your breaking point.
So very often my private lesson students say “what speed should I set the metronome too?” The answer is simple. You want be able to play smoothly without mistakes. If you are making mistakes, you are going to fast, slow down. The marines have a saying; it takes 2000 times of repeating something to make it programmed into your memory. That means playing that G scale 2000 times will get you to master it. Playing it here and there a few times a month or a week is useless. It takes repetition and dedication to become a master over something. Think of it like this, how easy is it to write your name, and how easy is it to write supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? The answer should be obvious, your name is simple. Why, because you have written it god knows how many times. But when you were little it sucked trying to write it. But after doing it over and over and over again it became second nature, the same rule is effect for music. Practice is a dirty word to many students, but it is what separates us from the players who never really get better. Repeating that scale or that drum pattern a million times makes us masters overt it, we own it.
Now, just playing with a metronome a few times through is also about as effective as standing on your instrument while doing jumping jacks on it. Not very!! Here are some ideas I use to practice.
The Time Game
Ill take a 3-note per string scale and set the metronome at 120 and play 16th triplets. I also have a clock near by. I make my timed goal five minutes of perfect playing. If at four minutes and forty seconds I make a mistake, I restart my five minute goal. The goal is five minutes non-stop and perfect. This also builds stamina and it really tweaks your patience with yourself. There were times where 2 hours later I was moving on to the next exercise.
I count 4/4 time but if it was at a tempo of 120, my metronome is set to 60. The clicks are beats one and three. The missing clicks are beats two and four. This really makes you concentrate on strict rhythm playing. Keeping the feel even is very tough this way. I do this especially for practicing chord progressions and single note melody playing.
These are but just two ideas of things you can do to make your practice more interesting and more effective. But the key is to go slow, and to repeat, repeat, repeat, and then repeat some more. Talent really is direct reflection of your drive to play repetitiously until you need a shave!
Start out with these tips and give you some more ideas in the near future. But this is a great start to making you a better player.
Until next time, Keep Rockin’ N’ Rollin’!!!!