Although every guitarist has their own personal reasons for starting lessons with a guitar tutor, you’ll find that many guitar players starting lessons can be put into these general categories…
- Guitarists who have stopped making progress, and are unsure of what they need to do to get better.
- Guitarists who have never really made any significant sort of progress. They have played for years but haven’t progressed past a fairly basic level of playing.
- Guitarists who feel that they could be progressing faster, but don’t know what steps they need to take to speed up their progress.
And let’s face it. These are situations where a good guitar tutor can really help. But did you realize that often many of these guitarists are focusing on the wrong thing? They are focused on information collecting rather than skill development.
What do I mean by this?
What I mean is that some guitarists have a belief that the thing that will solve their playing problems is more information. They basically want the guitar tutor to teach them new information at each lesson. They believe that the more things they know, the better they will play.
The irony is that getting new information is rarely what they need to focus on. In most cases, what they need to develop is an in depth knowledge of how to practice effectively.
Why do I say this? It’s really simple. Practice is the cause…your playing is the effect. In other words, most playing problems and lack of progress is caused by how you practice. And that is why guided practice is an essential part of your guitar lessons…
Understanding Guided Practice
I was lucky enough to learn piano when I was young. And a large proportion of each lesson was spent doing guided practice. My piano teacher would take me through practice sessions where we did things like…
- Working out the best fingerings to use for specific musical passages.
- Immediately correcting mistakes as they were made.
- Playing a musical passage over and over, but each time focusing on different aspects of the passage.
- Giving me immediate feedback after each time I played something.
- Improving the microscopic details of my technique.
And this is what guided practice is. It is doing a practice session with the help and guidance of your guitar tutor.
Some Of The Benefits Of Doing Guided Practice
Why do guided practice? The short answer is…because it works. It is possibly the most valuable part of any guitar lesson. Here are just some of the benefits of doing it…
Improved Problem Solving Abilities
Often I will explain to a student the various different technical approaches they could take in playing something. I will talk about the pros and cons of each approach. I will also demonstrate different approaches they could take. And this helps the student to develop their problem solving ability. And this allows them to develop the ability to things by themselves much more effectively.
Nip Technical Problems In The Bud
By having your teacher watch you practice, they will be able to notice and correct technical problems before they become ingrained. This is especially critical if you are taking fortnightly or casual lessons. There’s nothing worse in practicing something a lot only to realize at your next lesson that you’ve been doing it wrong!
Improved Motivation And Confidence
By doing a guided practice session during the lesson you will leave the lesson a better player. You’ll be able to see from the practice session that you definitely have the ability to improve. And this is great for confidence building and motivation.
Feedback is an essential part of the learning process. Without it, you can often be doing the wrong things for years without realizing it. And the most effective feedback is done immediately after you have done something. Guided practice allows your teacher to watch you play something, and then make immediate corrections and suggestions for improvement.
Overcome Performance Anxiety
Many guitar players suffer from performance anxiety. (They get nervous anytime they have to play in front of people). Guided practice really helps with this. It allows you to get plenty of practice playing in front of your guitar tutor. And as lessons progress, you’ll notice that it will become easier. (I’ve had some students that found it almost impossible to play in front of me initially, but eventually they become very comfortable and confident with it).
Learn How To Practice Deliberately
By doing regular guided practice sessions with your teacher you’ll be able to learn the skill of deliberate practice. This is the type of goal-oriented practice that helps you to reliably and consistently progress as a musician and as a guitar player. Guided practice is the best way to learn this skill. And let’s face it…it is possibly the most important skill that you need to master to progress on the guitar. This is because the quality and quantity of your practice is the only limit to how good you will eventually become.
Some Tips For Maximising The Value Of Guided Practice
Here are a few things that I highly recommend doing…
- Record your lessons. I really recommend buying a portable mp3 recorder and using it to record all your guitar lessons. That way you’ll be able to listen to the lesson and the guided practice sessions at home. (Side Point: An mp3 recorder is also an invaluable tool for recording yourself at home. It allows you to listen to yourself as part of your practice sessions. And this listening gives you valuable feedback on whether-or-not your practice is being effective).
- Listen to the recording of the lesson at home. You’ll definitely find that this will help your understanding and retention of what was covered in the lesson. It will also allow you to double-check how you should be practicing at home.
- Take notes as you listen to the recording of the lesson. Even if your guitar tutor provides handouts, you should write notes as well. These notes you write should include specific technical things that you need to remember for your practice sessions at home.
- Ask questions. If you are unsure of exactly HOW something should be practiced…then ask your teacher. If you’re not sure of WHY something has to be practiced a certain way…then ask your teacher. Questions are good! 🙂
If this sounds like an awful lot of effort to do for each of your guitar lessons…you’re absolutely right! But what are you expecting? Rainbow kisses and unicorn hugs?
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