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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

How to set yourself a year's realistic programme of study and development, and stick to it

My New Year's Guitar-Playing Resolution Number Five Revisited

Number five of my New Year’s resolutions has assumed an urgency needing immediate attention, since half of the first month of 2012 has already passed and slipped through my fingers, and maybe through yours too.

Setting realistic targets with plenty of time for additions as the year progresses is my immediate response to the challenge of how to stick to a programme of study over the year. This applies whether you are a dedicated enthusiast or a seasoned professional. If your targets include learning lots of new pieces, then choose just a few essential ones leaving time to learn other pieces which you may come across during the year. If your target is improving aspects of your technique don’t set the bar too high, leave time to explore and develop other related aspects.

The less experienced you are as a player the more difficult you are going to find setting realistic targets. That is one reason why examination boards and conservatoires devise and offer a year’s curriculum which can be very helpful, although you need not stick to it as a binding guide. Your trusted teacher should be able to help you set a personal set of goals for a year’s programme of study based on your own abilities and work-rate.

The more experienced player you become the more likely you are to be realistic about how much you can progress, although the margin between realism and idealism may be blurred.

You can plan your year’s programme of development in three parts: short term, medium and full-term. The short term applies to a target of one week or one month, medium term could be three months, and full term is the whole year.

Practical/short-term versus idealistic/long-term
You may find it easier to plan a year’s programme in bite-size chunks of one month at a time. We can all more readily see ahead one month than a whole year, so if you are very practical in your outlook you could plan a year in multiples of a month. For example, you may have decided to improve your technique to play fast scale passages: set a specific (realistic!) metronome mark for each month, increasing by the month and see where it takes you by the end of the year. On the other hand you may feel inspired to set a long-term goal of one year and prefer to work out backwards how much you should get through per month. For example, say you have decided to learn Bach’s Chaconne by the end of the year: you could divide it into approximately twelve sections, one per month.

Taking stock and re-focusing
Don’t abandon your year’s target if you feel you are not going to reach it. Rather, think that it wasn’t realistic and needs fifteen or eighteen months. Assess your progress from week to week and be prepared to not only change your achievement time-line but also how you are practising and studying to reach it. Your target should give you time to discover other music and explore other avenues of self-improvement.

Notice that I have not offered any advice regarding what you should be studying in your year’s programme, only how you should decide it and organise your practise. To decide on an interesting year’s programme try to combine all the elements which make up a three-course meal: a starter, main-course and dessert. In musical language that means a starter: something that encourages you to continue; a main-course: something that is challenging and fulfilling; a dessert: something which is fun and pure pleasure!

This has been my rough guide to setting a year's realistic programme of study and development.

January 2012

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=968 .
© 2017.

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