8 things that keep us from getting better, part 2

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Mistake number 5

Practicing licks in an uneven tempo

This seems like a small sin but it isn't. This will totally sabotage your chances of becomming a world class shredder. When you practice a lick, don't play the easy parts faster than the hard parts. Put your focus on getting the hard parts to be easy instead. If you fall into this trap, buy a metronome and make sure that it is your constant practice companion.

Antoher technique you can use to break this habit is to practice playing half and double tempo. Play the lick two times, in an even tempo. Then, without pausing, play the lick twice as fast. The basic tempo is of course determined by your max speed. Tap your foot while you play and be sure to stay at an even tempo.

Mistake number 6
Never developing the discipline of goal oriented practice

You don't have to practice 4 hours a day to become a master, but you must develop the discipline to practice the right things. If you are like me, you pick up the guitar because you want to - not because you have to. But one of the only reasons that I managed to develop the technical skills I wanted, was because I was able to start with the hard repetetive practice routines. Playing for pure pleasure was always preceeded by some hard work. (Which in itself can be incredibly rewarding if you do it consistently) You have to be a coach coach to yourself. You have to be strict but fair with yourself. Too much structured repetetive practice will hurt your passion for practicing.

"Self discipline is that which, next to virtue, truly and essentially raises one man above another"

Joseph Addison

Make it a habit to always have a pattern that you practice whenever you pick up your instrument. That decision alone can ensure your development. Decide on a cool, but seemingly impossible sequence, that you would really like to master. Then memorize it completely. Then decide to make it your warm up exercise for the next twelve months. Then decide to always play that every single time you start playing. This will make an enormous difference for you, in developing killer skills.

Try this bluesy arpeggio lick. If you're new to sweeping and tapping, chop up the lick in small pieces and practice them seperatly. The key is A-minor.

Mistake number 7
Practicing making mistakes instead of practicing getting it right

There are basically two kinds of practice:

1. Try and fail
2. Try and succeed

The first kind of practice will teach you to fail, the second one will teach you to succeed. It's that simple. Remember this: The brain is going to embed what ever you repeat. If you try to play a lick and then fail to get it right, and you do this over and over again, you are practicing that exact pattern. Play and fail, play and fail...

But if you practice the lick at a comfortable tempo, getting it right almost every time, then you'll teach the brain to succeed. Be very carefull not to push the limits of what you can do too often. Instead, slow things down and play the lick perfectly over and over again. Practice doesn't neccesarily make perfect. But perfect practice does.

Mistake number 8
Getting caught up in gear instead of in improving your skills

I fall into this trap quite often. I get seduced by the pleasure of shopping for gear and spend too much time browsing the internet, looking for new exciting stuff to buy. The passion for playing becomes the passion for what Tube will give me the sweetest sound. It's like trying to loose weight and getting caught up in shopping for workout equipment. If you fall into this trap and stay there, you'll be one one of these guys who know more about how pickup manufacturing than music theory.

"To will is to select a goal, determine a course of action that will bring one to that goal, and then hold to that action till the goal is reached. The key is action"

Michael Hanson

Awareness is the key. Be conscious of where you channel your passion. Being an excellent carpenter is a matter of skill and focus, the tools matter of course, but they are only tools. If the tools become your primary obsession, you are preparing for a job in the local music store. If your primary focus is your skills and the music itself, you are preparing for mastery.