Electric Guitar

Newcastle Guitar Lessons

In the spirit of the late Don Andrews, Angelo does not want to make you a clone of himself—he wants you to be all you can be as an artist.

The two modes of practice

There are primarily two modes of guitar practice, and both of them are vital.
The first involves learning of new skills and requires a lot of “thinking.” Remember when you first learned to drive a manual car? You had to think about which gear you need to be in for the speed you were going, the best hand position to use in order to move in and out of a particular gear, balancing of the clutch, hand-brake and accelerator when doing a hill start. You had to learn these in a particular order, really thinking about what you were doing.
This type of learning is what I call “working from the front of your mind.” You can’t do a lot of this for extended periods of time without regular breaks. Imagine trying to do hill starts for two hours without a break. Your mind starts to wander and you start making more mistakes and you just can’t seem to get it. The same happens with practicing something new on the guitar. At first you are able to concentrate, but after about five minutes (or less even), your mind starts to wander and you start making mistakes or you start mucking about with something else. Your will start to reinforce mistakes if you continue like this without switching from that task. Remember after mastering those gear changes and hill starts, you no longer needed to think about them. These skills moved to the back of your mind and you were able to access this information easily.

This leads us to the second mode, working from the back of the mind. Another really important practice technique is working on your muscular skills. Do you remember the “Karate Kid?” “Wax on, wax off” and “Sand the floor”?

(If you have only seen the newer version with Jackie Chan it was the part where he gets the boy to throw the jacket down, pick it up, etc…”.
The result was shown in his being able to recall these skills.

This was building habitual actions and reinforcing the muscle activity. You can do this type of practice for long periods of time. And don’t really need to think too much. You see skilled athletes often go to the gym just to build their physical strength. Doing the weights does not require a lot of thought once you know the exercise. Do the same with some of the exercises you are given for guitar ONLY after you can do them without mistakes. Remember, slow first!

Back in the ages when I was really serious about my playing, I used to go to Brisbane each year in the middle of winter for a weeks holiday. I stayed at a RAAF friend’s house and watched movies on television all night (till 6 am). If the movie was interesting, I would watch it intently, and when the commercials came on, I would work on the new pieces I was learning for the five minutes that the commercial was going. When the movie came back on, I put the guitar down. This gave me short bursts of intense, controlled concentration (using the front of my brain). If the movie on TV was boring, I would just play pieces on my guitar for fun without having to think. The reason I went up in winter was because my hands would freeze up here in Newcastle, so this gave me the opportunity to get my muscles back in optimum strength where the weather was a bit warmer (using the back of my brain).

So in short, it is OK to play in front of the TV (so long as everyone else is OK about it). Do short stints of five minutes – I have guitars hanging up for just this purpose. Waiting for the kids to get ready for church? Instead of yelling at them to hurry up; pick up your guitar, sit down and practice for five minutes. This is a great opportunity for “back of the mind” practice.

4 Responses to “The two modes of practice”

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