Make Your Practice Time Count

Weekly Newsletter #1

August 12, 2021

Greetings fellow guitarists! Welcome to the Max Rich Music Newsletter 

Today I'd like to introduce to you a few important strategies for maximizing your time while practicing. 

Let's face it, most people don't have time to practice guitar for hours each day. Maybe you get to practice daily, but its only 30 minutes or an hour in the evening. It's possible you don't get more than an hour or two per week. But does that mean you should give up on advancing as a guitarist? NO WAY! 

First off, there are many ways to get better at the skills we all rely on as guitarists, without regularly practicing on a guitar. I know that sounds crazy, but in reality its just about learning how to use your hands. I bet you have never sat down for 5-10 minutes and tried to move your fingers individually in a variety of ways. Kids do this all the time; they experiment and find out what their hands can and cannot do by twisting, bending and contorting them in all possible directions. However, this curiosity disappears as we age, and I'm here to tell you "don't lose that!" 

For a set of exercises you can do daily in under 5 minutes, and without having a guitar in your hands, check out this video

Remember, practicing these exercises away from the guitar will technically increase your practice time each day so that when you do sit down with your guitar you don't need to start from scratch. It's like you already practiced some technique for the day and can get right into practicing your music! 

Now, what if you do have time to practice each day, how can you maximize that? The simple answer is, don't make mistakes. Ha! I bet that sounds impossible, and in some way of course it is. Mistakes are part of playing guitar, but while practicing, its imperative that you try to never repeat the same mistake back to back. 

You see, the brain learns by repetition. It is unaware whether that lick you played was correct or not, it just knows that you played it. If you play the same mistake in the same spot over and over again, your brain associates that mistake with that particular lick. This is terrible for your playing because then when you go to perform that lick, your brain says "play this lick the same way we played it all those times in the practice room". If all those times had a mistake in it, guess how you will perform that lick? That's right, with the same mistakes in the same spots. 

This is why I tell all my students that if you make a mistake while practicing follow these steps: 

1) Stop and analyze the mistake you made in order to find out what exactly went wrong. 

2) Don't start over from the beginning, but instead start right before the mistake took place, maybe a couple of beats or so before. 

3) When you do try the mistake section again, do it ultra slowly so that you can control the lick and reinforce a positive repetition for your brain to recognize as the correct way of playing that section. 

4) Repeat that section at the same slow speed at least 5 times correctly so that your slow, proper repetitions of the lick far outweigh the one with mistakes. 

5) Start the whole lick again from the beginning at a speed slightly slower than the initial speed and concentrate on what you did while playing slowly that led to a good repetition. 

6) A good rule of thumb is: if you can play something perfectly, and I mean 100% perfectly (no buzzing, no mistakes, no scratchy sounds etc.) 5 times in a row, its safe to assume that you have it in your fingers. But if you get near end of the 5th repetition and make a mistake, start back over from zero. 

If you follow this method, I guarantee that you will improve much faster than you ever have before. Many students of mine have improved dramatically in a short time span by being dedicated to this correct approach to practicing and have been able to maximize their time on the guitar by not making the same mistake over and over again. 

If you found this helpful, I would love to hear from you. Please send me any questions or comments and I will happily answer them. If you need help with a technique, or theory or anything specific to guitar or music, please send me an email and I will do all I can to help you fix the problem. 

Thanks for being part of the Max Rich Music Newsletter. Keep on shredding! 

-Max Rich