Twelve Practice Tips to Make You a Better Musician
by Steve Harner
Practice does not make perfect. "Perfect practice" makes perfect. Strive for accuracy, consistence, and perfect technique.
Practice more of what you "can't do", and less on what you can. Practice is all about improving on things were not so great at yet.
A good practice routine should accomplish three things: Maintenance (of current skills & repertoire), Improvement, and Expansion.
Repetition. Rest. Repeat. I can't stress this enough. Music is a language. When children learn to speak, they work on it everyday. It’s one of the main reasons they excel so quickly, but while working on your studies everyday plays a huge role in your success, its equally important to let the brain and hands rest. Without rest, the hands get fatigued and ideas get stale.
Practice playing scales and modes to backing tracks. You can find these for free on youtube, or you can create your own. I use Garage Band a lot. Not only will you hear how the scale tones work against the chords, it will also help you with your timing, like practicing to a metronome, only not as boring as "click, click, click."
Stay loose, and relax. There should be no tension when you play. Make sure your posture is good and your hands are comfortable. Don’t fight your instrument.
Playing, and talking with other musicians regardless of their skill level is a great way of discovering new ideas. bass players, guitar players, piano players. It will help you become a better musician, and a better guitar player.
Listen to the music you want to create. You need it in your ears before it can come out naturally. If you want to play Jazz leads, listen to more Jazz leads, but be sure not to neglect other styles of lead playing. Listen to different styles of music. It will shape, and help to create your own identity as a musician. The music I’ve listened to as a kid heavily contributed to my sound today. I learned how to play by listening to records and reading “a lot” of books!
Sing what you play. This will help your ear training immensely, as well as your relative pitch, and tonal memory.
Write everything down in music notation. Writing things down will help you to see things visually, memorize subjects quicker as well as strengthen your reading & writing skills.
SLOW DOWN! You are not going to gain speed or clean sounding notes by playing fast! So many people get this wrong. Slower is always better. After your muscle memory kicks in you'll be able to speed anything up without much effort. Picture a car speeding by you at 60mph. You wouldn't be abel to tell me much about the car or the person who was driving at that speed. Reduce the speed to 10mph and you could now tell me the type of car, the color of the interior, as well as what the driver looked like.
My last tip is how to know when you truly have something memorized. If you can hold a conversation while playing the music, be it scales, chords, a song, or even a strumming pattern, you have mastered the passage mentally. Though it is still a good idea to run over all of the material you've learned as often as possible to keep things fresh in your memory.