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The art of practicing, part 2: Time and timing

Kategori: The Art Of Practicing

To practice the guitar you need time. More time could be better, of course, but not necessarily. Because what really matters is what you do with your time and how you dispose it. Todays blog entry will deal with the matter of time and how to use it.
- When to practice: It´s a good idea to start out as early as possible in the day, when your mind hasn´t been filled with other impressions and distractions. But not everyone has the possibility to start the day with free time, many people fills the first hours of the day on a job or in school. Therefore it´s very important for these people to build strong routines around practicing on spare hours, but it´s also important for those with loads of time. Why? It may seem strange, but in many cases the general rule is the more time you have, the more likely you are to waste it. There´s so many other stuff that can interest or distract you, especially in the 21st century, so you really need a structure. When it comes down to business, you need to make the most of the time you´ve got and be hard on yourself. Do you rather go to the beach, just hanging out, than practicing the guitar? Then you will get good at hanging out, not great at playing guitar. What will benefit you the most in the long run? Having a good time wasting time or having a good time with your guitar? This is not just a matter of music, this deals with so much other aspects of life - if you want to lose weight, should you exercise or should you stay at home in front of the TV with soda and popcorn? You know the answer, and even if the answer might seem tough it´s the answer that will make you feel better in the long run. 
- Disposal of time: I read a really good tip in a book many years ago, a practice routine built around intervals. Runners will know what intervals are - short bursts at a high pace interrupted by short breaks inbetween. To practice running this way will help you gain speed and your lungs will get better at disposing oxygen. To do this in a musical context is a bit different. What you need when practicing is focus, and focus is a thing that goes away very fast. The human being has only the capacity of keeping a really high focus level of about four minutes, so there´s your mark. Study intensive for four minutes, for example tremolo, and then take a mini-break in one minute, or at least a half minute. Then move on to next interval, then you focus hard for four more minutes, and then there´s the break again. I would recommend this pattern for somewhere between eight and ten repetitions, which makes a package of 30-40 minutes. This will make the most of your time, and is a really good recommendation when practicing technique or hard musical passages. When you´re done, have a longer break of 10 minutes, and then continue with a new package of intervals. I know, it seems a bit anal to clock yourself, but bringing a stop watch is a good idea. It´s even better of you follow a routine of predecided intervals. The schedule can include intervals of exercises of legato, sweeping, arpeggios or whatever. Does this seem boring? It may, but I assure you, this is pretty fun when you start doing it. And what´s even more fun - your guitar chops will improve, if you´re doing it right.
- New stuff: Scientists have discovered that the human brain only can cope with one hour of new information every day. And in many schools you´re studying new stuff for many hours every day, how good is that, really? Think about this when you decide what you´re going to practice -  to try to learn a lot of new scales or new pieces of music in just one day is pointless. Do it little by little every day, so your brain can keep up. Otherwise you´re just wasting your time, and you could just as weel go to that beach and hang out. Use your time wisely!
All in all it comes down to what you do with your time. Don´t think you´re doing great just because you´re practicing eight hours each day (this could be great, of course, if you use all this time in a good way), do great by using the time you´ve got in the most effective way. And don´t say "ah, there´s no time in my life to practice guitar". I know people who has a very busy schedule, but still they often knows how to squish in some practicing as well. It´s all about planning. And you should plan. How much you´re going to practice, in what way and what things you need to practice. It might seem boring and hard, but it won´t be once you get there it will be fun. And afterwards, when you´re playing better, it will be even more fun.
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