Saturday 20 August 2011

Guitar Practice - Don't be afraid of Change

The dreaded plateau!

Think back to when you first picked up a guitar. The first time you grabbed a pick, you probably weren't thinking about how this simple action would effect your future development as a guitarist. You just picked it up in a way that felt kind of natural and away you went. After some time, you started developing some technique and getting some songs under your belt. It was an exiting time.

But then something happened. You plateaued. You reached a point where your development seemed to stop. Your improvements were minimal no matter how many hours of practice you put in. You may have even felt some painful twinges in your joints. That's OK, no pain no gain right?

But what could you do at that point? You've spent a whole lot of months developing your technique. To change now basically means you are throwing away all that hard work. Starting over from zero. That's just depressing.

I know it's a drag, but it's time for a change. Right now, you are like a guy trying to be an Olympic sprinter when your running style resembles John Cleese doing the silly walk. No matter how many hours you train, you won't improve.

If your fingers resemble this, it's time for a change!

This happened to me in a big way. I hammered away at what I thought was a good practice routine without seeing results. Then, a visit from the tendonitis fairy finally forced me to re-evaluate things in a hurry. There I sat, sad and guitar-less, wondering if my left hand would ever recover. When I would finally pick up the guitar, the pain would return almost immediately.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  It forced me to seriously examine all aspects of my playing. The way I gripped the pick. The angle of my left wrist. How low I would wear the guitar on a strap. How much pressure I used to press the strings.

Back when I used to teach, I saw many students in this exact position. I would point out the parts of their technique that where holding them back.They were reluctant to change because it felt like they were going backwards.

The good news is, it really doesn't take long to change. Yes, you will feel like an uncoordinated novice for the first couple of weeks. But, if you keep with it, that new technine will be yours in about two months. Then be amazed as you watch your playing reach new heights.

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