The Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
|IN THIS ISSUE
August 20, 2000 Volume 7
I was practicing just a minute ago, (in fact, having a great practice session!), when I realized I had to stop, at least for a few minutes, and write down some of the thoughts I was having. I was busy reviewing some old repertoire (the Prelude, from Bach's Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro), and I was saying to myself "Wow, I am starting to get GOOD! This piece is feeling better than it ever has!" And it did. I was harvesting the results of a lot of very intense hours of practice on various "investigations" concerning technique and practice approach. These hours of practice have given me new "abilities" as regards playing the guitar. It has made some old things incredibly easier to do, enabling me to be more musically expressive.
And you know, it fills me with the desire to communicate to all guitar players what I communicate to my students, and just about everyone who knows me (and even people I just happen to meet on the street!). If you are one of the millions of people on this planet who sincerely and perhaps intensely want to learn this instrument, and do with it what you will, whether it's classical, rock, folk or whatever, IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO BE ABLE TO DO SO! There is a way of going about it that just WORKS. PERIOD! I make it work with all the people who come to me for lessons, and you will be meeting them in the Student Profiles on my site.
And I know it is working for a lot of you. However, I am always thinking of ways to make it work more powerfully, and more quickly. All the things I write, and the additions to my site are done with this purpose in mind: to try to get across to you the attitudes and activities that are necessary, in fact, VITAL, in order for this kind of development to be YOUR experience.
So I want to make this point to you. YOU should have the same feeling I was just having before I put the guitar down to write this. YOU should feel, at least on some kind of regular basis, that YOU are growing, getting better, as a guitarist. If you do not have this feeling at least once a month, or at the least, every three months, then SOMETHING IS WRONG! You should try to find out WHAT!
And I'll guarantee you it isn't lack of talent.
My personal philosophy of growth is that I will attack with great energy something I wish to learn, or something I wish to gain the ability to do. I will try, and then try again. But if in the course of my "fullest" trying, I happen to notice I am not getting anywhere, or have hit a wall I cannot penetrate, I pride myself on the brains to KNOW WHEN TO GO FOR HELP! That is why, when people write to me and ask me questions about whether they should maybe take lessons after 20 years of trying to learn to play, I give them a dumbfounded "Uhhhhhhh, Yeah, maybe that would be a good idea!"
In the new Student Profile I have just put up, I am introducing you to Mary, who has been pursuing her lifelong dream of playing the classical guitar for about 8 years. She is a person who started by trying to teach herself, and very quickly and wisely abandoned that idea after realizing that she was getting absolutely nowhere. One day, she saw a notice of a workshop I was giving. I was at that time just beginning to assemble the methods that would become my book, "The Principles of Correct Practice", and was beginning to present them to interested groups in my area.
Mary is very special, because she is one of the least naturally talented people I have ever had as a student. In addition to small, weak hands that were incredibly prone to tension in the beginning, she also had in many ways about the worst attitude a person can have who wants to be able to acquire the sophisticated set of abilities necessary to play the classical guitar.
For Mary, playing HURT in the beginning, and for quite a while as we went along, as she will tell you. And it wasn't only her body that was hurting, her mind hurt big time also, as I began to show her the mental focus that is necessary to train the hands and fingers. She would squeal, whine, and collapse on a regular basis in lessons.
It took her, literally, three years to BEGIN to listen to what I said, and DO it. When she did, we both saw big things starting to happen. Since then, her progress and ability to play has amazed the both of us, as well as her family, friends and co-workers. She has really achieved something, and will continue to do so, as she works for this ability she has always wanted. She is about 49 now, and is planning to be very involved in music when she retires from her teaching position. By then she will be QUITE good.
Mary is living proof that attitude, and the willingness to work, are more important, more fundamental than talent. Talent, without Attitude and Work, will never take you as far as Attitude and Work, without Talent. In other words, Talent can be acquired by attitude and work. If you saw Mary now, you'd say "Wow, she's talented!"
Mary likes to tell me that I should give her half of all the money I ever make from my book, because without her I couldn't have written it. And there is a lot of truth to that. Mary will often say, "Jamie, if I can learn to play, anybody can!" And I will often say, "
Mary, if I can teach you, I can teach anybody!"
So between the two of us, and the great perseverance we have both shown in the teaching/learning process, I believe we have really hit upon something.
I just got this e-mail the other day:
Just wanted to let you know. I bought your book awhile ago. After receiving it, browsed through it but never got to the Art and Science of Practicing section. Then, I shelved it for, I guess it's been a few months. As a beginner taking lessons, I am now learning Etude in A Minor, by D. Aguado. To me, I think it's a cool arpeggio study. Earlier today, I was learning the notes. As I got the notes down, I tried to build up speed, but I couldn't switch smooth enough. So, tonight, I decided to try your Basic Approach, and got all the way up to 100. It sounds great! Tomorrow, I'll do the second section. I hope to play for my instructor this Friday.
Your method really works!
Excellent Chris. Yes, it works, but only if you USE it! Thanks for writing and letting me know!
All material copyright © 2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com