Practice Routines

The Top 4 Intentional Practice Routines

By Jason Hall
In May 12, 2021
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Practice routines are an unfortunate necessity and, as guitar players, we all want to improve continually and consistently. However, at some point, it becomes clear that our weekly guitar challenges are getting harder and harder to overcome. One we day we may find that simply picking up the instrument and spending 15 minutes going over the weeks material just won’t cut it anymore, and this realization that our instrument starts to demand more and more of our time and patience through each bottleneck we progress through can feel demoralizing. We want to keep improving.

The Usual ” Noodling” Practice Routines

Jamming smoke on the water may have worked its magic at last year’s party, but we’re above that now, aren’t we? But sitting and practicing the same economy-picking exercise at 100bpm for 20 minutes every day can feel very cumbersome, and this feeling can result in a less enthusiastic approach to practicing. Your practice sessions may turn into a chore in which you might spend 10 minutes noodling on the same licks you’ve been playing for 5 months before reluctantly practicing your prescribed exercise for 5 minutes. Then getting frustrated at your apparent lack of improvement and putting your guitar back in its case for the rest of the day.

If this sounds familiar in any way, it may be time to rethink your approach to practicing the guitar in a way that will not only improve your playing but also your relationship with the instrument – which is of utmost importance if you truly want to become a great guitar player. Carlo Mombelli, renowned South African bass player, composer, and a lecturer of jazz theory at the University of the Witwatersrand used to emphasize the significance of one’s state of mind during the practice session. He passionately expressed to us that practicing is sacred and can even be a sort of spiritual experience, if you’ll allow it to be. Here are some tips to improve your practice routines, inspired by a South African legend.

1. Breathe And Set Intent

Among his useful insights was the advice of focused breathing and clearing one’s mind before picking up the instrument to practice. Entering this meditative state can help you remember why you love music and playing guitar in the first place, as well clearing your head of the distractions of the outside world. Having this clear state of mind allows you to focus deeply on each individual sound you produce with your guitar and will make it easier for your brain and muscles to encode the information being practiced. This ‘Zen’ state of mind makes it much easier to play with intent as each thing you play is played with focused thought and deliberation, rather than having your practice time littered with random chords and half-riffs in between checking your cell phone and taking toilet breaks.

2. Play To Improve And To Enjoy

Another insight to improve your state of mind involves spending a designated period of your practice time playing the things that you are already great at playing and that makes you happy to play. This could be a song you are currently writing, or a riff that you just really enjoy playing with your kick ass effects pedal. Ideally, this should be come at the end of the practice routine as a sort of reward for getting the hard work done.

3. Respect Your Practice Time

The hard work and the more playful part of your practice routines should both be treated with same high level of respect. After all, it is your valuable time that you invest into playing the instrument, and part of respecting yourself, your time, and the instrument means playing each and every note with intent and passion instead of making any random noise on the instrument just for the sake of it.

4. Keep The Guitar In Sight

This is a small but effective trick that will get you playing more often. Seeing your guitar on display in a way that makes you proud to own has a sure effect on your desire to pick it up and play. Keeping it locked away in a case, on the other hand, means that it’s out of sight and out of mind – creating an extra perceived barrier between yourself and the instrument.

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• Currently a top music student at the University of the Witwatersrand • Can teach music theory up to grade 8 ABRSM. • Looks a bit like Kurt Cobain but can play like Jimmy Page • Can play the keys and guitar simultaneously • Gigs with a professional jazz quintet • Police clearance issued

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