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Mastering Technique in Minimal Time

by Zack Uidl

While there are those people who have practiced 8 to 12 hours a day, this is not necessary in order to master musical techniques. The main thing that contributes to the mastery of a technical concept, is the focus and determination that you have within whatever time you are able to practice.

I honestly have never been the kind of person who practices for hours and hours a day. Since I live a very busy life, it has never really been possible. Of course, there have been exceptions to this during my years playing the instrument, but for the majority of my time as a guitarist, I have maintained an average of two or three hours a day. During this time, I maintained a very high level of concentration and focus in order to maximize what time I was able to spend practicing.

Many people suffer from not knowing how to organize their practice time and do not understand what they can do to improve it. So, to begin with, we will center our attention on maintaining focus while practicing. The key to maximizing your practice time effectively is to focus on one technique during a particular practice session, and not to jump around to do others. If you are working on your techniques related to scales and modes, as well as your sweep picking technique, only practice one each day. So, if you practice schedule beings on Monday, for example, begin with practicing sweep picking. On Tuesday, practice scale and mode technique and just alternate between the two every other day. By doing this, you are allowing your mind to learn more about one thing and allowing your mind and body to get into the "mindset" of a particular concept. If you were to play multiple techniques on one day and in one practice session, your mind will only remember certain sections of things as apposed to remembering everything that you have covered.

Another aspect to reaching your goals in a short period is your level of determination. You must maintain a positive attitude and mindset in order to reach your goals efficiently, no matter what occurs. Everyone experiences times where they are not happy with their progress, but those who rise above this, do not allow a negative attitude to enter their mind at all. They realize that they need to maintain their determination and positive mindset in order to reach whatever goals they might have. If you have a poor mindset, you will not reach those goals effectively. You will be shooting yourself in the foot. The following is a story from my own instructing experience.

A student of mine comes into my studio for his weekly lesson. As soon as he walks through the door, I already know that something is not right, so I ask him about it. He explains that he is frustrated on his progress, especially because he maintains a three-hour a day practice schedule, and is very focused while he is practicing. (As he is explaining this, it becomes very evident that he is not maintaining a positive mindset at all.) While he was very determined and focused, and knew exactly what he wanted to achieve, his poor mindset was holding him back.

I asked him about his thoughts that he has while he is practicing, and just like I expected, he explained that he begins having negative thoughts about his playing after just a few wrong notes. I proceeded to explain to him the importance of having a positive mindset in anything, but specifically while practicing. After the discussion, we finished our lesson and he went home.

The very next week, there was a change within him. He came into the lesson with much fewer frustrations. He had begun to manipulate his negative thoughts into positive thoughts and was already seeing drastic improvements in the quality of his practice time, and technical abilities. As the weeks progressed, he improved more and more and now, even though he now only has a two-hour practice schedule, is progressing faster than he did with his previously longer schedule. All because he changed his mindset.

This student's story is only one example, yes, and it might be a little distant from where you are in your musical journey. But think about what has been said, and, how it applies to you. Maybe you need to change your mindset from negative thoughts to positive thoughts. Maybe you need to maintain a higher level of focus during your limited practice time. Whatever the case might be, there is always a way to make the best out of what time you might have. With daily schedules being packed with time-eating activities, it is very important to maximize your time. After you have thought about what you personally need to improve there is one final and crucial step … DO IT!

© Zack Uidl. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.