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By Joshua LeBlanc
A lot of guitarists think that when you practice you just grab your guitar and play for how ever long and that is it. However this will only give you small improvements in your playing. Instead you need a clear idea of what you want to get out of your practice session. Maybe there is a lick in a guitar solo that you are having trouble with. You may want to work on knowing where notes are on the fretboard or being able to find certain chord tones with no trouble. There is an incredible amount of items that you can work on but you must first find which ones make the most sense to work on and then plan out how you will accomplish your goal.
Many players do not keep a detailed log of what they practice and accomplish. It makes it tougher to know where you are if you do not know where you have been. Go and get a notebook and begin making detailed notes of your practicing. Make sure to put the date of each entry and keep track of what you practice, how long you worked on that item for, and what you achieved with it. Along with that make recordings of your playing to reflect back on after a period of time. By having a record of what you have done in the past it makes it that much easier to compare it to your current playing and notice the improvement.
Imagine being a runner. With many runners their goal is to run faster and complete certain distances in a shorter amount of time. In the beginning it’s easy to shave minutes off of your time but as they get better they start making smaller improvements. Guitarists face a similar problem because most players think that speed is the only aspect that you need to work on improving and that is simply not true. So it is not a surprise when you say that you want to push yourself to play a sweep picked arpeggio and improve it by 50 BPM in one practice session and maybe you don’t make any improvement on it. Instead focus on other aspects such as playing it multiple times in a row with no mistakes, making sure that all of your notes are articulated, or making sure there is no extra string noise. As you improve in these areas your speed will continue to improve as well. You need to make sure that you know what your current ability is and make sure that you don’t push yourself to the point of unobtainable results. Not doing so will only set you up for disappointment.
Joshua LeBlanc is the owner and lead instructor at Lafayette School of Guitar specializing in guitar lessons in Lafayette, LA.