As Blood Runs Black Guitarist Dan Sugarman on Optimizing Your Practice Time, Part 2
I also want you to be aware of the fact that an unbalanced practice routine can be harmful to your growth as a musician if it's not acknowledged and fixed. There are the fun/creative parts to music (right side of the brain - the creative center), and then there is the almost math like, fact based information that needs to be understood and retained (left side of the brain - the linear and analytical thinking center).
Mastering the latter requires a lot of focus and discipline. It takes a lot to sit down and commit yourself to learning all of the modes for instance, but it's a must if you want to be able to call yourself a real musician. After reading that last line, you might be saying to yourself - "Oh shit! I need to go sit down tomorrow and learn all my modes!" But in reality, that approach to learning something is a bad one and one that I don't recommend at all. Here is why ...
Final Words - Finding Balance
A lot of people seem to think that to become a great guitarist, one must sacrifice fun to get on the fast track to greatness. Wrong! There is a balance between having fun and being disciplined when practicing that is most favorable toward achieving the results you're looking for.
Having an imbalance in this area will most definitely prove itself detrimental to your growth as a guitarist. For instance, if you beat yourself over the head with the same scale over and over again (left side of the brain), chances are you're not having too much fun. It may end up leaving a bad taste in your mouth and leave you feeling unfulfilled simply because you didn't enjoy yourself.
You've been starving the right side of your brain (the creative part)! Over time, you may see the hours you spend practicing diminishing and your interest in the guitar weakened because playing just doesn't give you the buzz it did when you first started. Had you mixed things up and proportioned your practice time with left and right brain exercises, things would be different.
Remember that the brain acts like a muscle; it needs exercise too if it wants to stay active and productive. But on the other hand, if all you do is improvise over jam tracks in A minor (fun - right side of the brain), then you won't have much growth either because you lack the discipline in all the other realms of music. The left side of your brain is now underdeveloped because you've neglected the launching pad for growth by ignoring the foundations of music. When was the last time you did any ear training? What about composing and structuring your own songs?
Why not change it up and improvise in all the other keys and modes while integrating some new ideas into your improv? Just because jamming is fun doesn't mean you're going to get massive results out of it by ONLY doing that. What I'm trying to say is you need to have a balance between the things that are fun and the the things that are difficult and require a lot of discipline. The left side of the brain and the right side of the brain need to be stimulated regularly so that they can grow simultaneously and keep your progress moving forward.
My point is this: At the end of the day, you need to enjoy yourself and feel accomplished with what you're doing. Surround yourself with inspirational people and things that will fuel you to continue moving forward. Try to learn something new and review and master what you already know every time you sit down with the guitar.
Touch several different topics in each practice session that use both the left and the right side of the brain; just make sure it is organized and proportioned fairly. Spend an equal amount of time on each of that practice day's topics before moving to the next one.
Well, that will do it for Part 2 of Optimizing your Practice Time. Thank you for reading this, and hopefully you got some goodies out of this. Stay tuned for my next column! I'm sure there will be more on practicing guitar as I go along. Until then, you stay classy, planet earth.
As Blood Runs Black's new album, Instinct, is out now. Check them out on Facebook here.
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