If you've been reading my past columns with any regularity, you might have
noticed that I often refer to the similarity between music and sports. It only
makes sense: both are activities that require constant practice to stay in
"playing shape," and both require repetitive, dedicated work to develop the
skills necessary to advance to the next level.
When it comes to the discipline of practicing, there isn't a better parallel to the guitar than working out with weights. In both cases, you have to embark on a systemic, consistent practice regimen over a fairly long period of time in order
to see any progress. There's a lot of mindless, repetitive work that initially
doesn't seem to lead to anywhere. But then, when you least expect it (or are
ready to throw in the towel), you make a breakthrough and reach the next
plateau;only to have to start the painful process all over again. The bottom line
is, you have to be mentally tough and really see yourself achieving your
objectives to go through all the physical discomfort and mental tedium.
Before starting any workout program, you have to outline your goals. Do you want to bulk up and gain weight, or do you want to tone and trim? Is there a specific muscle group you need to develop? Then, depending on your goals, you structure your workout accordingly.
The same goes for guitar playing-before starting a practice regimen, it's
imperative that you define your goals. And that requires doing some serious
soul-searching before deciding who you are (and want to become) as a player.
After all, if you only have a finite amount of practice time a day (say, two
hours), what do you spend them on-learning a piece of music, writing a song or honing your chops? Or all three? So ask yourself, what are your interests? Do you want to push the envelope of technique and play anything you can hear, or are you more interested in creating new sounds on the guitar? Or do you just want to write the best three-chord pop song you can? (And believe me, there's an art to that, too.)
knowledge of most styles. Therefore, it would make sense for you to focus
your practicing on sight-reading and learning the essential stylistic components
of rock, country, blues, metal, etc. If you're interested in making a mark as a
composer or songwriter, you'll want to know at least a little bit of harmony and
theory, and do a lot of writing and free-associating.
Needless to say, as you grow as a person and a musician, your goals will
probably change. Mine sure did. When I was younger, all I wanted was to get
proficient on the guitar, so I spent all my time practicing technical things.
Then, when I went to Berklee, I became more focused on learning music-I
worked on sight-reading, theory, etc. And once I got my technique together
and grew as a musician, writing and arranging songs became more of a
matter how long you've practiced something, you just can't seem to master it.
Believe me, it's not just something that happens to you-every musician (and
athlete) has encountered this at one point or another. All I can tell you is don't
weights. For example, you might be bench-pressing 150 lbs. for weeks, and
yet whenever you try to step up a small increment (even 10 lbs.), you can't lift
the bar anymore, no matter how hard or often you try. Then one day, out of
have difficulty playing a 16th-note passage at 144 beats per minute. And no matter how many weeks you practice, you just can't seem to break that "144 barrier." Then one day, you pick up the guitar and, for no good reason, play the same passage not just at 144, but at 160 beats per minute!
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?