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BEST TIPS FOR GUITAR BEGINNERS- Productive practice and improvement

The only way you learn to play an instrument is by consistent practice. Now notice how I used two different words in the opening sentence: "play" and "practice". These are two separate actions that should be distinguished from the beginning. "Play" is your goal, and practice is the process to reach your goal. Still. what is the difference? Think of practice as "fixing" and playing as a fixed product. If you just play and nothing gets fixed, you will consistently have a faulty product.

Here are some tips to help your practice habits.

General tips

-Patience: Fixing does not happen instantaneously, it might take days or weeks to hear improvement. As long as it sounds better every day, you are on the right track

-Consistency: Practicing consistently is key to improvement. It is better to practice 10 minutes every day than 4 hours one day a week. Try to commit to a schedule where every day you have dedicated practice time. Twice a day is ideal.

-Keep the guitar in close reach. Always keep your guitar in a place where you can grab it in a moments notice. I recommend having a guitar stand or a wall mount, where your guitar is always available. Do not leave the guitar inside the case, under the bed, in the closet etc... it will be forgotten.

-Practice right after lesson. If you are taking guitar lessons, I highly recommend having a productive practice session right after your lesson while the material is fresh in your head.

-Small Accomplishments: Celebrate small steps forward, as small as they may be. Think back: was I able to do this last week?

-Noodling: I personally like to noodle on the guitar while watching tv. This is in no way a replacement for productive practice but a supplementary activity. Grab your guitar while your watch your show and keep your fingers moving, as long is your not annoying your family, roommates etc...

Detailed tips

-Work on each hand separately: Each hand on the guitar has a very distinct function. In order to avoid a "system overload" of your brain, practice each hand individually. If either hand can't operate individually, most likely they won't work together.

-Don't start at the beginning: We tend to always to start practicing a piece from the top. The result is that the later sections of the piece suffer. Start working on a piece from different sections. The end of the piece is usually the part that suffers the most from lack of attention. Try also starting from the end. It's also a good idea to tackle the hardest sections very slowly before starting anywhere else.

-Memorize music: Memorizing the music is necessary if you want to improve your performance level. This will allow you to focus on details you wouldn't notice otherwise. The best way to memorize music is by closing the book and not looking at the music at all. Look only if you hit a brick wall, then close it again. Memory is a muscle that needs to be exercised.

-Analyze mistakes. If you keep making the same mistake over and over, stop! zoom in to the problem and try to determine what exactly is causing this.

-Consistent fingering. Consistency is key to successfully playing music well. Use always the same fingering on both hands. Memorize the piece with the right fingering. Fixing a bad habit is much harder than creating a good one.

-Performance. Performing is dreaded by many and usually never a personal choice, specially as a beginner. However, performing the music you are learning is a big step forward. There is no better place to learn about yourself than the stage. Performing doesn't not mean you need to play Carnegie Hall, just gather a couple of friends together, roommates, family etc, and play for a couple of minutes, you will be surprised of the experience.



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