The Practice Police

Dear Dude,

How many hours of practice do you devote to your guitar a day?

Thanks,
The Practice Police

Dear Practice Police,

Practice is something that I mention in almost every letter. Probably because it’s the single best, time tested, unmistakable act you can do as an artist to improve. There are not too many of those, so it’d be wise to heed to it. I would also like to take a moment to dispel a common misconception that most guitarists sit around and practice at all. In fact most guitarists I’ve toured with have confessed to me that they never practice. The grind of life can sometimes take its toll on your free time. Even as I write this I think, “FUCK I need to practice!” But it’s good to know everyone faces this challenge. Finding the time to practice is a hard thing to do, but it’s a must if you want to continuously get better.

When I am at home I spend anywhere from at least one to three hours a day practicing or playing guitar. Notice I didn’t just say practicing because at home I don’t do too much actual studying. I try to play and pull off shit I usually can’t. I spend time learning a few songs I love, but most of all I sit around and try to write music. I make sure to schedule that time into my day, because the first step to getting better at guitar is sitting down to start.

When I am on tour it’s a bit different. I play almost all day non-stop. I carry around little ripped off pieces of tab paper so that if I get a free moment I can run through an exercise or run I have been having problems with. To be able play stuff out of your range you have to able to analyze every detail and look at it in slow motion. It’s the combination of practicing and just jamming that has made me both a faster and cleaner player. Its best to split your overall playing time between repetition (straight practicing) and creation (writing, riffing, and working on your own jams). Each of these things is a separate cognitive process that will push your playing to the next level.

Practice takes time and as a musician you have to learn how to balance this time. It’s just that LIFE also need to play a huge role in creating music. All great songwriters need to not only be able to rock, but also have something worth expressing. So, the agony of wrestling between spending your time practicing and actually living is born. Let me tell you how many people I know who can jam the hell out of a guitar, but have nothing new to offer or express. And that just doesn’t interest me.

If you want to get better, you have to practice. This might be the most true thing written on the Internet right now. If you really love to riff, then the act of practicing shouldn’t be the hard part,  it’s finding the time to commit that is hard. A lot of dudes out there think they need to spend hours promoting their band, schmoozing with record labels, and being seen at all the right places, but in reality you need to make sure you don’t forget the one thing you know will actually make you better, practice.

The Dude

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