Guitar Practice Doesn't Always Make Perfect, Or Does It?

Scott McGrath on the trials and tribulations of practice   18-Nov-12


It emerges into a kind of mental block, feels like some kind of physical limitation of my pinky... and who knows I may never get it as consistent as I want it. Is it just me? I do sometimes worry that most other players can, you know, just do this. Doubtless some can.

But I decided that this is a minor but important beachhead for my playing and I will continue to play this until I reach either a) some rapprochment with this minor fluke of my technique, or b) become a total burnout case on the tune.

Some things that help, in no particular order:

  • Playing along with the original at 3/4 speed, and full speed and insisting that I keep going even with minor faults. Does this reinforce bad habits though? I'm not sure. I will slow it down or stop for awhile and return to it later if the misses outnumber the hits, as it were.
  • Circle back on it several times during a practice session to keep it from getting stultifyingly dull.
  • Playing it over a metronome or drum machine.
  • Randomly adding the riff as a kind of comic reference in the context of some other piece I'm playing, or using some completely different rhythm against the part.
  • Playing it on different guitars.
  • Not giving up, though I want to.


On that last point, one final observation about the mental tricks I'm trying to play on myself. I think persistence is crucial, because, well, eventually a lot of similar hurdles can be leapt over.

At the heart of that is a drive to push myself toward calm acceptance of my own incompetence. Does it really matter if I'm struggling with something?  

Can I just pretend to myself (at the very least) that I can stop berating myself and just keep trying in a relaxed manner? In larger and smaller measures (as it were), this kind of self-talk has pushed me through a tough spot. So at the heart of the matter, you have to have a kind of faith in your brain, body, and talent to keep trying.


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