Today’s practice tip is something I’m sure every guitarist knows is important, but it bears repeating because so few of us consistently do it. I’m talking about allocating an adequate amount of time to REVIEW.
Some of the most basic mechanics of guitar technique (open chords, rudimentary rhythm patterns and song forms) can be called up years later without regular practice, but any bit of technique or piece of music above beginner level guitar playing requires regular review or you will lose it. Given the incredible amount of focus and work it takes to build technique and repertoire, it would be a shame to lose what you’ve worked so hard to develop. Further, I believe that the “plateau” effect that many guitar students struggle with – the apparent loss of forward progress in their musical development – could be the result of poor practice habits when it comes to regular review of past lesson materials. It becomes very hard to progress if you wind up spending the majority of your practice time having to haphazardly relearn and redevelop skills and materials that have gone stale for lack of regular review. Worse, many students misconstrue the source of this problem. They mistake their inability to retain intermediate-level material (without review) for a “lack of talent” or “poor memory”. They then blame and doubt themselves, and sometimes become frustrated. Really all this fuss has nothing to do with talent or memory or anything. It’s really just a matter of adjusting your practice habits.
This problem is easily fixed so long as you are able to take control of the way you practice and willfully change specific practice habits. That is the first step. I would suggest spending anywhere from 25% to 50% of your total practice time on review. Exactly how much time you need depends on what you have been doing. If you’ve had poor practice habits for a prolonged period of time, it might be a good idea to dedicate 100% of your time to review for several weeks until your technique gets back in shape. Then you can gradually dedicate more and more of your time to new songs/techniques. But always leave about 25% of your time to review so that you don’t wind up back where you started.
Ultimately, the more organized, systematic, and consistent you are with your review process, the LESS time you will need to spend on review. Full musical literacy can play a HUGE role here. The ability to FLUENTLY READ musical concepts, exercises, etudes, solos, and complete songs from written notation is an ESSENTIAL skill. Even a novice guitar player has hundreds of things that need to be reviewed regularly. For most of us it is simply impossible to remember everything we need to review. But, if you develop full MUSICAL LITERACY, you don’t have to pull all that stuff from memory. You can simply open a book of old material and simply play through old lessons in real time. Then after 20 to 30 minutes of simply reading and playing, you’re done with review! It goes from an impossible chore to something so simple, but again, the key is having developed the ability to READ MUSIC fluently.