Practice and Development
Author: Bruno Ferreira
‘Practice’ - the act of doing something regularly or repeatedly to improve your skill at doing it.
‘Development’ – the process in which someone or something grows or changes and becomes more advanced
Practice and development are two concepts that require a lot of self-research before we are able to write them on the same sentence. Just because we spend hours and hours practicing, it doesn’t mean we will be improving our musicianship. Even though you might develop your technical skills you still need to incorporate the sense of context, musicality and style in your performances. And there comes the issue.
We often get obsessed with technical improvement, speed, cleansing and all those “visual” issues that we forget about listening.
What is the purpose of making music? To provide an auditory experience based on our personal perspective of context, character and sentiment to whoever is listening to your performance, therefore our time spend in developing our musicianship must rely on listening to the sound and sensations you produce through your guitar. Think about a “chef”, playing music without constantly listening to what we’re playing compares to a “chef” serving a dish without ever tasting it. Does it have salt? Is the bass line well articulated? If you do not “taste” your own music, how do you know what experience the listener will have?
This is probably the most important task to do when you practice an instrument, whether you are playing a scale, tuning the guitar or rehearsing “Sonata Eroica” for that concert you have in 5 months.
Based on this small chapter presented above, I suggest a 6 stages process of practice:
Spend 5 to 10 minutes of your practice session to try-out the piece you want to develop. You don’t really have to do this every time you want to work on something, this will help you to plan the next steps and goals until you need to re-evaluate your progress.
The assessment step is rather important because it’s when you “measure” the difficulty of a section of the work you want to work on. Make a list of sections that need more attention and sort them by difficulty. This will help you to plan your daily study and to be more effective
There is no way around it, short and simple: practice is repeating. BUT if you keep repeating that position change over and over again hoping it will work without experimenting the best way to do it, that’s you will end up doing – repeating that passage eternally.
Experimenting is part of the practice process, try new fingerings, new dynamics, play the melody in a different string and DON’T turn on the autopilot when you practice, you would be wasting your time.
After integrating these previous steps in your routine, you should be able to feel some improvement – not only on your practice process but also on your musicality and expression.
How do you know if you are improving or not? You need to go back to stage one, try your performance again, record it or show it to your teacher, family or friends, so you can have a different perspective.
After the hard work comes the joy. Just get the guitar and play that piece you’ve been working on so hard to nail and play it in as many ways as you want, it is yours now. No-one will ever take it from you!