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The Art of Practicing by Steve Eckels We are all familiar with the importance of practice, and perhaps you

have heard the axiom, perfect practice, makes perfect. We can benefit from not only practicing the guitar, but by practicing how-to-practice. How can you get the most benefit from my practice time? What is the first step in the practice process? What are the most efficient practice strategies? The first term you should know is, hesitation-point. Your job is to identify precisely where you hesitate. It is a common mistake to say, I hesitate or struggle with the whole thing. Instead you must say, I hesitate at the beginning, in the first measure. After you identify the where? you must identify the what? Be analytical. You might say, In beat one and two, Im not sure where the fingers of my right and left hands should go. Now that you have clearly identified the where and what it is time to address the how. The second term to internalize is fix-up strategies. Fix-up strategies address the how to practice. I would suggest looping (repeating) the left hand motion by itself, until it is memorized. Then loop the right hand by itself, until it is memorized. Once both hands are memorized, put the two hands together for only two beats. It is a common mistake to trudge through too much material rather than mastering a small link in the musical chain. Memorize one link at a time. Loop & link is a good strategy to remember. As a beginner or recreational guitarist you may think that jumping right into your song is the best way to practice. This may be true once you have acquired a tool kit of all the techniques that make up a solo. It is also true that you will acquire reusable tools such as scales in intervals of thirds, sixths or tenths when learning each song. On the other hand, you can isolate, correct, and improve performance by working on scales, sight-reading, and guitar skills individually. Scales are used to improve tone, right hand dexterity, and left hand independence. Sight-reading helps clarify your concept of rhythm, melodic motion and ear training. Guitar skills provide you with a tool kit of intervals, triads, chords, and RH patterns that you can utilize when learning a new piece. Since I have been acquiring tools for nearly 50 years, when I learn a new piece, I am essentially learning the organization of the music. If you are a beginner learning a new piece, you need to learn the organization of the music and the technical elements (tools) at the same time. This is why as you add new skills, you gradually can learn pieces faster and faster. This is why it is a good idea to balance your practice with: scales, sightreading, skills, and songs (the four Ss). Building you skill kit answers the question, why is this valuable to me in the future? A balanced practice session could scales, sight-reading , review old songs and start new songs. Each song will provide you with more techniques that you can use on your next song. Remember to practice practicing. Remember to ask where, what, how, and

why, as you approach a piece. As you master the art of practicing, you will see tangible progress every day. I recommend that you pause to reflect on your work in writing. The writing process forces you to make your thoughts more tangible and your progress more quantifiable. Include numbers and facts. I memorized the transition between beat two and three, where fingers one and two are positioned on the notes C and A, on strings three and two. Making the data explicit can clarify your thinking. I have found that as my students learn how to practice, a snowball-effect starts to take place that is, one success inspires another success and success lead to student engagement or getting into the zone. It is exciting to succeed as something, so when one measure of music sounds really good we want to go for more.

Common Fix-ups for Hesitation-Points


Write out note-names & fret numbers. Write the counting & clap the rhythm. Adjust left hand fingering. Adjust right hand Fingering. Loop the right hand only. Loop the left hand only. Loop and memorize the phrase-before slowly. Loop and memorize the phrase-after slowly. Link phrases together and progressively speed up using metronome. Consult peer or instructor. Take advantage of double-stops, common finger, glide finger, or guide finger. Adjust hand or body position. Use left hand planting. Use right hand planting. Reflect on your work and journal your progress using facts and numbers.