Thursday, November 13, 2008

Practice makes perfect!

As I watch the students in my guitar classes progress at different rates, it has become obvious that playing a musical instrument to the best of one's ability requires dedication and a rigid practice schedule. Those that play and practice the guitar more from week to week tend to progress faster than those that practice rarely. Unless a person is a professional musician, it is difficult for many guitar students to find enough time during the week to invest the necessary amount of time. The same is true, in many cases, of the matter of physical fitness. Those that don't have the time to exercise on a regular basis tend to be weaker and fatter than those how somehow find the time to walk, jog or go to the gym on a regular basis.

While some academic subjects require a lot of time to study and memorization, learning to play an instrument requires more of a physical conditioning. There are, of course, things that a music student must know about music, but virtuosity comes from many hours of moving fingers on the neck and strings.

Why would a guitar student assume that less effort than this is required? Would you let your doctor treat you if they didn't have time to study medicine? Would you let a mechanic fix your car if he never found time to study and practice mechanical skills? Would you allow a contractor to build you a house if they only found time occasionally to do this?

Sometimes I joke with my class and ask if they all practiced 8 hours a day like they should. But when I think back to some of the more productive periods of my own life, maybe this is not really such a joke. When I was studying music in college, I had to practice many different instruments several hours each day, plus keep up the study for my general ed courses. When I was on the road working as a professional musician, I began the day with a 3 hour band rehearsal, practiced privately in my room for another 2-3 hours, and then play a 4 or 5 hour show at night, sometimes even 2 or 3 shows per night. Naturally, with my teaching commitments, I cannot afford to practice like that anymore. But I also have to acknowledge the fact that I am not progressing on the instrument like I was at that time.

To sum this all up, if you want to become a better guitar (or any musical instrument) player, you need to practice more each week. There is no substitute for daily rehearsal. This is a fact, and I challenge anyone to tell me otherwise!