Proper Practice Procedures Produce Pleasing Players
Published: 3 January, 2015

– Stick to them and 2015 will be a great year for us – unless events take over like in 1915, 1815 and counting……

“Must do some proper practice” – how many times have I said that to myself or heard students and associates say so? Proper practice is what you need to achieve your aims. Once those are clear in your mind then you can set about establishing your practice schedule.

The beginning of the year is one of those few times when we universally pause for thought and take stock of where we are and where we want to go. This, then, is the the perfect time to do this with regards to your playing. You may be aiming for one or more of these targets:

Play through and learn lots more pieces
Learn just a few pieces, but really well
Develop your technique
Improve your sight-reading
Learn more about improvising and harmony

Set out a plan of where you would like to be in a year’s time. Once you have decided, halve your expectations! No point being crazily over-ambitious, better to be cautious and agreeably surprised. Now, conveniently, the year can be subdivided into 12 months, each month into 4 weeks, and each week into 7 days. You can set yourself mini-targets. Keep vetting your progress and re-adjust your targets if they prove too difficult, or, step up the practice to meet your goals, whichever is the more realistic.

Look forward with enthusiasm and optimism to this year, but be mindful of the unpredictable. As British prime minister Harold Macmillan used to say: the only things that get in the way of planning are “events, dear boy, events.” The keen guitar player who arose on the morning of 1st January 1915 – the last occasion we had a ’15 year – was in the midst of the 1st World War. If he were in the army, he could not know where he would be by the end of the year, or what would happen to him. Go back another hundred years to 1st January 1815. As the aficionado strummed his guitar he could close his eyes and smile in relief that after many years of war Napoleon had finally been dispatched to exile. His eyes would open wide, horrified, if he were to know that within a few weeks he would escape and that one last bloody battle would have to be fought.

So, fellow pluckers, the future is unpredictable so cradle your guitars, enjoy the moment and enjoy the year, and hope for the best. That, I think, should make you practice with even more determination. The time to live and play and do what you believe in is…now!

3rd January 2015, Mexico

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