Posted by: worshipguitarguy | January 19, 2007

Making the Most of Practice: Small Things That Lead to Big Improvements

Sorry about the delay in today’s post… we’re getting ready for a major youth event that we’ll be leading worship at next weekend.  

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“Practice???  Practice??? I ain’t talkin’ bout practice, I’m talkin’ bout the game!”

Well, contrary to Allen Iverson’s thoughts on the subject, practice is the key to improving your playing, especially when you approach it with purpose.  Here are a few things that can really help you with improving your playing

1.  Record your Practice Time:  Professional athletes do it, good speakers do it, and great musicians should do it too.  Making audio recordings of your practice time, and playing it back will enlighten you to problems better than about anything else.

There are a couple good ways to record your playing.  First, if have a computer, you can record with that, especially if you have a POD, GuitarPort, or other MFX unit with a direct line out.  If you don’t have a program to record with, check out Garage Band on the Mac, (so I’ve heard) or download Audacity for the PC.  It’s freeware, and is an amazing program for the price.  😉 

Another great solution that doesn’t require a computer is to buy a digital MP3 recorder.  This is really good if you’re just hanging around somewhere jamming, or if you’re practicing with other people where you really can’t mic each instrument individually. 

When you’re playing back your recordings, there are a couple things to listen for.  First, check your tone, does it sound decent, or are there problems with it?  How is your rhythm?  Is it consistent or uneven?  Are you overplaying?  Or does your playing just sound choppy? 

Also, recording your band’s practice is a great way to deal with certain “small problems”.  There’s nothing better than letting someone hear areas where they’re struggling instead of “telling” them. 

2.  Take Time to Practice with a Metronome:  While practicing, take time and play with a metronome.  There’s nothing better for smoothing out your timing and rhythm.  (This coming from a guy who has struggled, and at times still has some issues with rhythm.)  When working with a metronome, try finding songs with slightly different rhythm structures than your used to playing and work on them. 

3.  Work on Scales:  Take 5-10 minutes to work on scales and their different positions on the fretboard.  Ultimately, you should be able to play a certain scale in each position all the way up and down the neck.

While working on scales, also work on alternate picking.  (Picking up and down.) Alternate picking is the key to developing speed while playing riffs. 

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Responses

  1. hi, i was wondering about recording guitar and vocals onto a computer, what is exactly needed? can a mixer, mic, and some cables be sufficient enough?

  2. Hey s.lee, welcome!

    If ya have a mixer board, you can run a line out to the input on your computer. (If you run a line out from a submix channel, you can adjust your mix through it.)

    This is great for down and dirty recording… if you want slightly better quality, you can go with a USB/Firewire interface solution. Chema’s hooked up his Line 6 Tone Port to do this with us… (running vocals through one input, instruments through the other.) The Tone Port is a pretty inexpensive way of doing this, and the quality of those live recordings tend to be pretty solid for a rough sketches.

  3. Yes, the TonePort is an AMAZING little gadget. It comes complete with 2 XLR mic inputs with dbx preamps (with phantom power), 2 instrument inputs (1 padded, one normal), 2 line level inputs, 2 balanced line outs (1 left, 1 right), and a seperate headphone bus. The unit also features impressive VU meters, and is built tough overall. It interfaces with your computer through a USB connection, and is very easy to use. Actually, the best part is the included “Gearbox” software. It allows you to get insanely accurate amp models through your computer, and is an added bonus. If you are looking for a great, well priced audio interface. Look no further! The Line6 is for ya.

    I got mine for $140 on ebay, (they usually run $250 new)

  4. that line 6 thing looks really cool. is it able to produce fairly good quality sounds from my acoustic guitar and vocal? and is there perhaps something like this but more higher quality?

  5. It really depends on your expectations… The Line 6 hardware produces some solid recordings… No doubt it would do well with your acoustic and vocals. If you’re wanting truly professional quality, you may want to look at slightly higher end products, but truth be told the Line 6 boxes turn out exceptional quality for their price.

  6. The unit includes vocal, key, and drum preset and preamps. They are extremely high class, and great for recording.

  7. would the keyboard tone port also work as a midi controller. like an m-audio interface? could i use it in a live situation to trigger loops?

  8. I haven’t used it, but by the specs Line 6 lists, I’m sure you could use it as a midi trigger device… Hopefully someone who has used one could stop by and give us the rundown.

  9. Re: scales… this is the boring part of practice since it’s not a “song”… but, crucial for muscle memory.

    I keep a beat up old piece of junk nylon string guitar near the couch and try to make a habit of picking it up and running scales whilst watching the football game, or whatever. I pay just enough attention to it to make sure I’m playing cleanly and keeping steady pace, but other than that, I’m just drilling the scales into my muscle memory.

    Also… practicing that on a nylon string classical (wider neck, thicker strings) makes playing the electric feel like half the work…

  10. I was planning on getting to that one in the next post of the series Tony… (your just ahead of the curve… 😉 )

  11. Oops… pimped your upcoming topic… my bad!!!

    It’s all about the couch guitar, man. I’ve written more stuff on that $10 guitar…


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