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Effective and Applicable: An Introduction to the Art of Practicing

At some point along their instructional path, the great majority of players will have read at least one article about how to “practice."

If you’re anything like I was, digesting Guitar World magazines, etc., like a starving man does a long-sought-after meal, you’ve read a ton of them.

If you’re at all as fanatical as I am, you digest any and all available guitar info with the fervor of Indiana Jones looking for the Holy Grail. Actually, the Holy Grail is a pretty appropriate metaphor, especially when it comes to our topic of practicing.

I was always hoping to find the one, ultimate, perfect method of practicing. The one way in which I could become the best possible player I could be, the fastest, and with a level of effort that would allow me to have a social life. And some sleep -– supposedly that’s important.

Practice should be two things: effective and applicable.

Effective in terms of efficient use of your time and ultimately resulting in forward playing progress.

Applicable in that your practice enhances your style of playing.

I read about guys like Steve Vai, who practiced like 28 hours a day every day of the week and who has a practice agenda as thick as a freaking phone book. Or Paul Gilbert, who mentioned in a recent interview that only now (after decades of ripping it up) does he allow himself a day off. Sometimes. Hendrix would literally sleep with his guitar in the bed -– falling asleep playing and waking up playing. Eddie would sit in his room and practice away while his older brother Alex went out to chase girls.

Now that’s some dedication!

All in the endless pursuit of getting better, Better, BETTER ...

Each of these guys are the cream of the crop, and each of these guys had a different way of going at the process of learning. There is no Holy Grail of practicing. Each of us as individuals has a different take, and that’s what makes the music unique. You take a different road and you just might end up in a different place, right?

We all accept that practice is a necessary activity. My goal in this series of articles is to focus on another, more important and engaging topic: How to keep your individual practice fun, engaging and forward-moving. Especially when you get bored of your own practice routine. I’m going to introduce some novel and stimulating ideas that will take you out of your comfort zone and into the novelty zone. Prepare yourselves!

Brian is the guitar player in the rock band Captain Decibel, whose second independent release, The Dream Logic, is coming very soon. Spending 20 years learning the guitar has resulted in more than just unique riffing. For more information, check him out at or email him at

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