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Practice - Get good by small, steady improvements

Practice is controlled repetition with a goal in mind.

The Goal

  • What are you trying to improve in this piece?

  • Find the hard bits, and write them in your record book

  • For each, work out why it's hard - is one finger not going to the right place or moving too slowly? Is the pick missing when you cross strings?

  • Decide what should happen. This is your goal


  • By repeating a movement, you etch a pathway in your brain that makes it easier next time. So make sure you get it right each time by slowing it down - do it so slowly that you can't help but get it right. A metronome is a must have for practicing, it will discipline your playing and enable you to keep track of your gradual improvement.

  • Repeat it perfectly a few times, then speed up very slightly and carry on. If you can't play it perfectly at this speed, slow down even more. Go on like this until you reach the target speed - This may take a few practise sessions.

  • Use your pupil record book to keep track of which bits you are working on, and how much time/how many repetitions you do on each. If you have a metronome or drum box, use this to keep time, and write down the tempo reached each time

  • If you start making mistakes, slow down again. The temptation is to speed up regardless of mistakes - but be patient, this gradual approach actually makes progress faster by attacking the things you can't yet do, until you can, rather than skipping over them.


  • Make sure your fingers are doing what you want them to. Watch them. If they don't, then slow down even more until you are back in control

  • Focus only on the one thing you are working on, and ignore other problems - you can deal with them in the same way later.

  • As you gradually speed up, try and keep exactly the same movements, so that you keep control as you improve.

  • Once you have reached your goal, put the new bit back into the music. Carefully play from a little bit before to a little bit after the bit you have been working on - again, slowly at first, then gradually up to speed, until it is seamless

  • Congratulate yourself; when you started, you couldn't do that and now you can - you are now a better guitarist!

1. Make practice a habit - part of your daily routine

2. Have a goal - what are you trying to improve?

3. Break it down - work on small sections of music

4. One thing at a time - forget everything else

5. Work on the hard bits - so that you improve

6. Slow it down - so slowly you can't help but get it right

7. Gradually speed it up - even over several days for hard bits

8. Don't repeat mistakes - you will teach yourself to play it wrong

9. Listen as you play - or tape it and hear it back

10.Use your pupil record book - to keep track of your practice

As you practice, you will find bits you always fluff - bad players simply skate over these and never improve - good ones take the time to slowly and carefully concentrate their practice on these bits and gradually master them - and end up brilliant!