I’ve never heard a student say “I have too much time to practice,” so let me suggest some practice concepts that are time effective.
In college I participated in a master class with the great Cuban guitarist Manuel Barrueco (www.barrueco.com) and he said you should “always have a goal to achieve when you go into the practice room.” To reach my goals I try to cover these 4 basic areas: Warm up/Technique practice, Repertoire, Study, and Fun time. Ideally all of these areas overlap. To consolidate your practice time use the piece you are learning as the focus for technique practice, and your study of melody, harmony, and rhythm. As you learn new music find what challenges you, isolate these areas and make technical exercises out of them. Know what key the piece is in. Practice those major/minor scales and the 7 diatonic triads in the key. Dissect rhythmic challenges by “counting and clapping” and then play this on the guitar, counting aloud with a metronome. Keep a practice journal. Topics for practice are never ending!
For the example below I created a 60 minute session for an Intermediate player learning Fernando Sor’s Estudio #1.
1. Warm up. Since the piece is in C Major, learn to play the C Major scale in 2 octaves. There are 5 Forms of this scale on the fretboard, learn the fingerings and practice a new one everyday. (10 min)
1A. Technical. Today focus on slurs in Sor #1. Practice each slur one at a time (I count 5 slurs), until you can play it clearly 3 times in a row. Can you do 4 times? How about 6? (10 min.)
2. Repertoire. Practice Estudio #1 “phrase by phrase.” Carefully observe what your left and right hands are doing so that eventually you can anticipate your movements within the music. Practice evenly with a metronome and work out the rough spots one at a time. If you can play the whole piece play it once or twice, or play whatever you know. (25 minutes).
3. Study. Play all 7 triads in the key of C beginning with common open position chords. Next session play triads with all bar chords, and another day explore the “small chords” (2 and 3 strings). Try to see and hear the connections to Estudio #1. (10 min.)
4. Fun. You could take a turn and practice your Eddie Van Halen Eruption solo or…take time to reinforce your performance of Sor. Perform the entire piece at least 2 times in a row. Whatever you find challenging is a hint for your next practice session. (5 min.)
Whatever you don’t complete in one session cycle into the next ie. Slurs, scale/chord study, emphasis on a phrase. This “cycling” concept is also useful to manage larger amounts of repertoire.
Now go have fun and achieve some guitar goals!
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