Cameron Mizell

New York Guitarist

The website of New York Guitarist Cameron Mizell.

Creating a Structured Practice Routine

I recently wrote a new article for MusicianWages.com regarding practice routines. Over the last several years I've noticed that my guitar students show more progress if we spend more time each lesson learning how to practice, rather than reviewing the material from the week before and trying to correct mistakes. We could spend a lifetime perfecting one piece, or we could focus on practicing in a way that makes perfecting many pieces more easily attainable. You can read the entire article here:

Creating a Structured Practice Routine

Here are some of the highlights:

What To Practice

A good practice routine should accomplish three things:

  1. Maintenance (of current skills and repertoire)
  2. Improvement (of technique)
  3. Expansion (of your repertoire)

Time Management

Schedule your practice time ahead of time. One hour of practice might look like this:

  • 20 Minutes – Warmup / Scales / Arpeggios
  • 10 Minutes – Getting to know the fretboard; learning every place to play a note, chord, etc.
  • 30 Minutes – Work on repertoire

If you have two hours to practice, I might recommend the second hour look like this:

  • 15 Minutes – Free Improvisation or Composing
  • 15 Minutes – Working on roadblocks, such as difficult chord changes
  • 30 Minutes – Work on repertoire

Repetition. Rest. Repeat.

Just as repetition and rest builds muscular strength, the act of repeating a skill over and over creates stronger connections between neurons in our brain. However, those connections won’t be immediately apparent. Rest plays an important role in allowing our brain to process what it has just learned.

Transcription

The absolute best way to improve yourself as a musician is to transcribe, transcribe, transcribe. What better way to master our craft than to emulate the masters?

Transcribing utilizes everything we would ever need to practice:

  • Aural skills – Your ears!
  • Musicality – Learn not only the notes, but the tone, inflection, and nuances of each note.
  • Technique – Master those difficult passages.
  • Scales, arpeggios, chords, rhythm – The building blocks of all music, directly applied in the piece of music you’re learning.
  • Composition, improvisation – These skills are two sides of the same coin. Learning somebody else’s composed melody or improvised solo requires the same skill and reaps the same benefits.
  • Notation – Memorize your transcription first, but then write it down. Not just for posterity, the act of writing down transcriptions will help you see the music, which will help you improve your reading.
  • Expand your repertoire – You’ve just learned a new piece of music or lick.

Take lessons.

All of us, regardless of our skill level, could benefit from private lessons every now and then. If you’ve tried to structure your practice time and still can’t decide what to work on, perhaps it’s a sign you need to take lessons. Many musicians, myself included, teach via Skype. No matter where you live, all you need is a good internet connection to take lessons.

And of course, I am available for guitar and mandolin lessons in Brooklyn or via Skype. Happy practicing!