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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

How to make the best of a 30 minute practise session

Practise versus playing

Some of you may think that if you have only 30 minutes available then it is not worth doing any practise. But I think you are wrong. There is quite a lot you can do with 30 minutes provided you use your time wisely. Notice I say "practise session" as opposed to "playing session". A playing session can be just five minutes and can make you feel great. For example, you might come home after a day at school or at work and feel a bit tired or wound-up, so to feel better you pick up the guitar and play a piece which has been going through your mind all day. That is good and makes you feel great. The only word of caution I would offer is to not to launch into a difficult piece which stretches and bends the fingers without some minimal warm-up exercises.


Stage 1: warming-up is important

So let me now concentrate on the subject in hand: the practise session. What are you trying to achieve in those 30 minutes? Maybe it is just to keep your fingers going and elastic without a specific piece in mind. Maybe you have a piece in mind that you are learning. Maybe it is some particularly difficult passages that you are determined to get right. With all these goals in mind my advice is going to be the same. Firstly you need to warm up your hands and fingers. To start with you must sit down in a reasonably calm frame of mind. It is no good rushing in, and storming through scales still in a sweat. Your hands will reflect your tension and it may be a frustrating experience. You must find a way to bring a measure of calm to the proceedings. Apart from having a drink, or deep breathing exercises, or whatever is your inclination, the trick may be to play a beautiful slow chord sequence. Music does have a powerful calming effect in itself, so find your own sequence to help you calm down. After your calming sequence, try just a few minutes of scales and arpeggios. These can be of any type you like. Start slowly and quietly - this will also help you play without tension and help the fingers. Gradually, over a period of no more than five or six minutes, get louder and faster and try a few changes and improvisations. Within ten minutes or so you will have warmed up with a favourite sequence (and as you can see I recommend a chord sequence), scales and arpeggios. These form the basis of all guitar technique. You have warmed up the fingers with these critical aspects. If you still feel you need more warming up before moving onto stage 2, then keep at it a bit longer. Remember we are all made differently, some of us need hardly any warming-up and others a lot more.

Stage 2: stepping up a gear

After five to ten minutes of the warming up exercises you can now try playing some of the difficult passages from the piece or pieces you are learning. Remember you only have 30 minutes. For the next ten minutes or so concentrate on slow deliberate practise of those passages. Try not to stray from this, which is not easy. If in doubt place a clock in front of you and see how long ten minutes really is! Always start practising those passages really slowly before increasing the tempo. Don't try to do too much - four or five passages may be more than enough. It is better to make headway with a little than spread yourself too thin.
By the end of stage 2 you have been practising for some twenty minutes. Put your guitar down and walk around for a moment or two so as to clear your mind. You are now ready to move to the next stage.

Stage 3: the moment you have been waiting for

You now have about ten to 15 minutes remaining. You are warmed-up. You have done some concentrated practise. Now reward yourself. Play through your piece/pieces and throw caution to the wind. Enjoy yourself and give a performance regardless of mistakes, hoping of course, that your stage 2 practise has already improved things. Playing all the way through a piece without stops and starts is very important and no less so when you have a 30 minute session, for it makes you feel this is what you have been building up to. It brings your brief practise session to a fitting, and hopefully enjoyable finale.

At the end of the 30 minutes as you put the guitar away you should feel this has been 30 minutes well spent.

This has been my rough guide to how to make the best of 30 minutes practise time.

May 2011

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=510 .
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