Here’s a post from guest author, Doug Hanvey from Portland Piano Lab. Doug is an expert on helping students learn how to practice. He is the author of the instructional methods The Creative Keyboardist and 88 Keys to the Blues and the composer of hundreds of piano pieces and songs and the score of a full-length musical. He is a member of the Oregon Music Teachers Association.

How to Practice for the Quickest Possible Progress

Do you want to become the very best guitarist you can be in the shortest possible time? I thought so.

Since you’re either in school now or used to be, you know that there is both a good and not-so-good way of studying. The good way gets you A’s. The not-so-good way gets you C’s and D’s – if you’re lucky.

Just like studying for an exam, there is a good and bad way of practicing guitar. The good way will help you become the best player you can be in the shortest possible time.

The bad way? Let’s not even go there.

Ready? Here’s the good way of practicing guitar:

1. First of all, do all the following every time you practice. Reading these tips isn’t good enough. You have to make good practicing a habit by doing these things consistently.

2. When you’re learning a song, chord or scale, don’t let yourself make a mistake. This is the Golden Rule of Practicing. It’s a physiological fact that the brain learns whatever you play. If you make mistakes when you’re practicing you will learn those mistakes. The end result? Wasting your time and slower progress.

3. Practice slowly. Very slowly. Most guitar students practice too fast. Most people practice too fast even when they think they’re practicing slowly! This is the best way to avoid making mistakes. What’s your hurry, anyway? The next Reinhardt or Clapton isn’t made in a day.

4. Once you’re practicing slowly, you’ll start to notice when you’re about to make a mistake. This is a crucial moment. You can forge ahead and make (and learn) the mistake, or pause and figure out how to play it right. Pausing is an essential way to avoid learning something the wrong way. While a pause may seem awkward because it interrupts the rhythm and flow, it can easily be eliminated later on.

5. Remain aware of the quality of your practicing. It’s easy to start making mistakes and not notice until you’ve made a whole bunch. When this happens – and it will, because you’re human – do one or more of the following:  (1) slow down more, (2) increase your concentration via pure mental effort and/or caffeine, or (3) take a break.

If you follow this regimen every time you practice, you’ll get the most out of every precious minute of your practicing and reach your musical goals in the briefest possible time.

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