We’ve all (probably) heard a saying similar to: “Beginners practice something until they get it right, professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.” That’s a great saying, but how do you do that?
You might want to question what ‘right’ means. Most find that as we progress that there is always something that can be improved. It doesn’t mean that what we mastered was wrong or bad, it just means that our ear is more trained and tuned.
To quote Justin “Practice makes permanent” that’s a good thing to keep in mind as you learn and progress.
I see learning as a process of refinement and development. We begin by learning the basics, then build on that. Our goals change. There is always something that can be improved, developed, polished and as we travel that path, what we play may well sound good to others and ourselves.
Vincenzo, I take that simply as an encouragement to not declare ‘done’ too soon, to think about what constitutes ‘done’ when working on something. What constitutes ‘good enough’. And as @batwoman says, as we continue to learn, our determination of ‘good enough’ will change, the proverbial bar will be raised as we grow in proficiency. And it is encouraging to know that however masterful you may become, you will be forever raising the bar.
Great question. Some times it’s easy for me, other times quite difficult. When I see a problem, I slow it down until I get it right. That’s when it’s easy. The other times I don’t notice the problem soon enough.
The “practice makes permanent” is a great thing to remember. I struggle at times because my enthusiasm gets in the way of doing it well enough.
For me sometimes I just have to move on and come back later. I reckon once I practice stuff for a certain amount of time the practice becomes robotic & I’m likely to improve quicker doing something else and coming back to it. So the longest I’ve practiced anything for is about 6 months daily, by then I was sick to death of it.
Yes you are absolutely right.
There is no point getting bored. Learning the guitar requires lots of revision and leaving something for a bit and coming back to it helps keep it interesting and also helps it become permanent.
I have to do that to sometimes. I work like crazy on something and it just does not work well. Leave it for a few days and its better. I had to do that with the Eagles, Hotel California acoustic picking part. I should recorded that and post it
I agree, if something isn’t working despite of honest efforts you need to cut off the “bad connection” and come back later. 20 min later, 2 days later, there is no benefit in pushing the thing until you turn blue. I know because I did this myself too many times.
I tend to live by Justin’s mantra of if it sounds good it is good !!
Having said that, I think as others have said it really is just a question of time and effort. When the breakthrough comes there’s not too much better a feeling!
I’m sure that I heard Justin saying on one of the lessons that even the professionals make mistakes and its important to not stop and keep on going as the chances are the mistake won’t be picked up by the listener.
I find this one quite interesting. Even really slowly (60bpm) I occasionally make the same fingering mistakes with the major scale. I understand we should get it perfect before we speed up. That could be a long time!
I think everyone here is missing one word in the quote. “Professionals”. Ever watch 2 musicians
talk to each other when they are in the middle of play a song and just keep playing.
When you get to that point you’ll understand what the quote means.
Professional musician put in on average 4 to 8 hours a day practicing. Now you need to understand the difference between beginner practice and Professionals practice.
Beginners practice to learn something like chords or songs.
Professionals don’t practice to learn something. Professionals practice to prefect something.
Justin mentions in one of his videos where he spent hours perfecting a bend, a one note bend
I remember many times when playing in a band practicing 4 barres out of a song until the
whole band got it right and tight. Sometimes that took al night some time it only took a couple of hours
I definitely agree that if something really isn’t working and it’s getting frustrating then you need to leave it for a bit. I’ve found with piano too that some things literally need a brain reboot. Once you’ve slept on it it’s much better. So even if you are trying to perfect something a long session is not the answer. I’ve left piano pieces months then come back to them and suddenly I can play them. Getting annoyed or bored with something never helps your learning.
I’ve wrestled with this too. I performed a few solos on stage badly in the past and thought it was from need of practice. From my time on this forum I learned a couple things:
As much as I practice I still make mistakes but I find the mistakes less annoying. I just keep playing. If I ever have to play on a stage again I think now I can just play through the mistake.
Playing on stage, the piece has to be done. I need to be completely satisfied and ready. I wouldn’t play anything over my ability or close to my limits - it has to be a homerun. For that setting practice time is a lot longer than I thought - not weeks, months.
Funny you should say that Rick. Decided most of this week would be a run through the 22 songs in my “Playable/Singable” set on Setlist Helper, most have been gathering dust. I played the first 4 ok but very rusty, then stumbled on the bridge section of Behind Blue Eyes. Spent the next hour just on that one section only and its still not up to the spec I want, with the vox added, so back on that today!
For scales it sounds like 60bpm is not slow enough for your needs. You should be playing at a speed where fingering mistakes don’t happen. Constantly facing the same problem will take longer to unlearn.
The encouraging thing is that it’s the same mistake and you have recognised it. Justin has a short video on just that kind of problem if you haven’t seen it.
Isolating a mistake and actively trying to get it wrong is indeed a great way of getting through it.
Hope this helps
Edit. I think this is better for a new topic. Thanks.
Thanks Dave - that’s really good advice. Will give it a try and let you know how I get on separately as per @Jamolay’s point.
I didn’t mean to confuse. I had written a post that I felt should have been a new post rather than a hijack. Sorry!
What I do to “practice until I can’t get it wrong” is to practice the song, riff, lick, whatever, until I can confidently play it at a faster than normal tempo. For example, if a song I’m learning originally has a tempo of 120bpm, I’ll practice it until I can play it at 125 or 130bpm confidently.
That way, when I play it at the original 120bpm, it actually feels “slow” and, therefore, easier to play.