As Blood Runs Black Guitarist Dan Sugarman on Optimizing Your Practice Time, Part 2
Yoo! What's good? How did your week of practicing go? Did you get a chance to apply some of the concepts I talked about in Optimizing your Practice Time, Part I?
I know there was a lot of good brain food in there for you to digest, but the last thing I want for you is to develop mental indigestion from overwhelming you with information. My hopes are that you've learned something new from Part I that will help you bridge the gap from to mindless meandering to an efficient and effective practice routine, as well as opening up your mind to new approaches to practicing.
In my last column, we discussed the ideas of practicing with a "Focused Awareness" by using your mind and ears, how to "Divide & Conquer" anything thrown your way, how to use "Separation & Isolation" to further extract the pieces apart from a section of a song or an exercise, as well as other general yet very important practice tips. I'd like to continue where we left off and start by introducing several more concepts to you so that you can add them to the melting pot.
Today I'm going to be talking about Integrating the things you've learned into your playing and morphing them into your own creations, Visual & Aural Feedback, The Un-Comfort Zone, and Finding Balance in your growth as a guitarist and musician. Let's begin.
As you know, the purpose of an exercise is to get better at the technique that specific exercise is focusing on. But is a technique really mastered if you can't use it musically? This concept is about creating within the limits of those specific techniques that the exercise is focused on.
I now want you to take whatever it is that you learned from the exercise you have been working on and kind of summarize what the purpose of the exercise was. Legato, Hybrid Picking & String Skipping, you say? Okay - cool.
Now within those restrictions try to create your own phrase or riff using those techniques. Oh, so you worked on all of the chromatic permutations to develop better finger dexterity and a higher finger IQ, you say? Right on - now go write some interesting chromatic lead lines to help you integrate what you've learned into your musical vocabulary.
The idea of creating with an idea in mind as well as guidelines and requirements to follow (the techniques used) can be a very useful tool when it comes to writing or improvising. Now would be a good time to start experimenting with this concept. BE SURE TO DOCUMENT ANYTHING YOU COME UP WITH! Because guess what? You just created yourself some home-made exercises and quite possibly some great material for a new song! Nice work. Keep it up.
Visual and Aural Feedback
The best way to see how far you've come and how you're progressing is to take a step back and watch yourself in action. How do you do that? Record a video of yourself practicing! This will allow you to not only document your progress, but it will also help you analyze your playing from the perspective of the audience so that you can easily see where you still need the most work.
Use the Divide & Conquer method to fix any problems that you see or hear in the video. Another benefit of documenting your progress in this way is that it will give you something to look back on to show you how far you've really come. Be proud of yourself. Remember what it felt like to play your first chord? Hold on to that excitement and harness it. I know it sounds stupid, but playing the guitar can be extremely disheartening at times.
Especially when you've reached a dead-end in your playing, or when you're constantly comparing yourself to other musicians. Music is hard, and the guitar is one of the more complex and challenging instruments out there - there's no denying that. But acknowledging your achievements and giving yourself a pat on the back once in a while is a great way to keep fueling the fire. How far will a car get without any fuel? Nowhere. Keep that in mind. Stay inspired.