One of the biggest mistakes all guitar students make is practicing too fast. You may not think you are practicing too fast, but you are. Your teacher may tell you, or you may have read in a method book “Practice this slowly at first. Put the metronome on 60 and play one note per click”.
DON’T DO THAT! Practicing notes at that speed, one second per note, is waaay too fast for your muscles to learn, or for you to stay relaxed throughout your body as you attempt to teach your fingers to make movements and stretches they have never done before. In fact, any beat whatsoever is too fast for many of the new skills and movements you need to train into your fingers.
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That is why, way back in my teaching career, I devised a method of practice I called “no tempo practice”. It means that you make the required movements with your fingers, and you do it as slowly as you need to do it in order to make sure that the fingers do everything right. You make sure they play all the right notes, and they play them all in the right way. There is no beat, and no time. There is nothing pushing you along, making you tense and making mistakes. It also gives you plenty of time to do what we talked about last time – practice whole body awareness and use rotating attention.
You MUST Watch Your Fingers!
There is one other vital point I must make before we finish this discussion. I have often read the advice in guitar methods “Don’t watch your fingers, let them find the way themselves”.
This is completely wrong! If you follow it, you will be in for lots of trouble. The fingers only learn through muscle memory. Whatever they do, they remember and repeat. If they do the wrong thing, they are very happy to keep repeating it. They are just as happy to repeat the right movement, if someone has taken the trouble to make sure they did the right movement.
Your job in practicing is to make sure they do the right thing. If you are not watching your fingers to make sure of this, they will be making a lot of wrong moves, and you won’t know about it. When you go to play, you will have no idea what your fingers are actually going to do!
1) Use no tempo practice with whole body awareness when you practice.
2) Watch your fingers to make sure they are doing the right thing each time.