Improving Your Acoustic Guitar Playing- Practice… But Why?

By Bob Harris:

Practice Makes Perfect?

Some say that improving your acoustic guitar playing is just a matter of practice… but is it really just that… and why?

Well, I found this article over at the Talent Code by NY Times best selling author Daniel Coyle with an interesting story about a clarinetist named Torin Bakke who made recordings after practicing 200, 1000, and 3000 hours, noticing a difference in his playing.

Not to long after he published the article, Daniel couldn’t resist asking Torin if he had any advice that he wanted to share:

Improving Your Acoustic Guitar Playing- Practice is all you need?

“I think the most important thing is just making yourself practice every single day. If you take one day off, it’s easy to take the next day off, and then you’ll stop progressing and get really frustrated.”

There you have it: Every single day. So simple to think, and so tough to do.

As fate would have it, one day later my wife Jen came across a useful Torin-esque tool: a practice map. It could not be more straightforward: 100 little circles, each representing an individual day, drawn in the shape of a violin (click on the image to zoom in). It’s from the Suzuki Music community, and it’s used by kids who want to make the 100-Day Club — which requires practicing 100 consecutive days. (In Suzuki, that makes you kind of a rock star.)

I love two things about the practice map:  1) it gives the learner ownership of the process, and 2) it points toward a larger goal. Each day is literally part of a bigger picture. In other words, repetition isn’t really just repetition — it’s construction.” read more here

A lot of guitar teachers will tell you that improving your acoustic guitar playing is not only about practicing, but practicing the right things. I do agree with that philosophy since I’ve been trying to correct a technique problem. Had someone showed me the right way to begin with, it would have for sure advanced my playing. But that doesn’t mean that a change, even after years of doing something the wrong way, can’t be accomplished.

A very miraculous thing happens when you repeat a passage or progression over and over again. At first you will notice that it takes a lot of concentration just to be able to do it!  But if you keep at it, say, play it a little everyday for a week, you will notice by day two or three that it doesn’t seem to be requiring as much brain power as when you first started. Practice it even more, and you will be able to play it without hardly any thought behind it.

Now why you may ask, does that happen? Well, this is not any medical or a scientific evaluation, but some teachers will tell you that your hands develop muscle memory and remembers where to go automatically. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by this miracle. Guitar playing itself would not be possible if our hands didn’t eventually learn where to go! So, improving your acoustic guitar playing… the flow chart would be as follows:

practice- repetition- forgetaboutit.

Please let me know if this helped you or if you have anything to add!