Playing or Practice?

Over the years I have come across many students who have categorised playing and practicing as two different things.

They have been taught how to do exercises, practice technique, run scales, arpeggios etc but in fact some of the best ‘practicing’ you can do is when you just play.

Playing the guitar is what shapes you as a guitarist. Playing allows you to be musical and you aren’t thinking about how you are doing it but instead you are doing what you are feeling – that’s when things start to get really good.

Sure, to get to that stage you need to have a structured practice regime and good technique in place but you also need to spend at least the same amount of time just playing and being creative without thinking too much about what you are doing. The problem is some students still think practice and playing are two different things. Because of this they tend to have trouble turning what they have learnt into what they want to play.

So the quicker you can start playing the ‘less’ you need to practice.

One of the key things that gets you out of the ‘exercise’ regime and into playing without boundaries is improvisation.

Improvisation allows you to express, without thought your true musicality on the guitar.

It’s like playing the first thing that comes into your head then applying it in context to what you are doing in that moment. Now most guitarists starting out may have trouble getting their head around improvising but others may find it comes more naturally.

The best way to start is to try and think of a simple musical idea and then immediately play it. Remember you are only as creative as your musical vocabulary. So the more you know the more you will have to express yourself. This is the process you will eventually refine so that it becomes second nature.

Music has many parallels with language and it’s universal in nature. Improvising on the guitar is like language. Except for letters you have notes, for words you have licks and for sentences you have phrases. You have heard guitarists say about how the make their guitar ‘sing’? This is what you need to think about when you play so that you can communicate with the listener.

It does take time but that’s what makes you sound like you. Music is very subjective and to really connect with others you have to first connect with yourself.


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