Beginner stuff > Practise Habits

Practise Habits

Developing a healthy routine for practising is the best way to improve your playing, it is the small differences in practising habits that add up to much better playing over the years. Be patient and routines will be easy to get into and become second nature soon enough.

Environment

Most people practise in their bedroom, if possible a music room is best but bedrooms can be adapted to make an adequate playing environment. Make the area comfortable and organised. Making it easy and convenient to just pick up the guitar, flick a few switches and start playing. This encourages a more regular practice routine. Practice makes perfect.

Posture

Back problems are common among guitarists (especially those who practice for hours with no breaks whilst slouching over their bed). Bad posture cause back and wrist problems but can be tackled easily by sticking to certain rules.

  1. No slouching. When standing, stand with a straight back. When sitting, have a straight-backed chair.
  2. Wrists should stay as straight as possible.
  3. Hands and wrists should be as relaxed as possible, especially when playing fast. Tension prevents movement and leads to cramps. Also it uses more energy, so take a breather and relax if you start tensing up. Relaxed wrists are as much a benefit to your playing skills as it is to your health.

Using regular short breaks is the best way to relieve stress that builds up in the muscles when you practice. It also provides time for you to reflect on what you have played to develop musical understanding.

Guitar straps

The width of the guitar straps determines the pressure on your shoulders. Basically, the heavier your guitar is, the wider your straps should be. Adjusting the strap to fit you is important also. If you have it at just the right length the guitar will remain in roughly the same place whether you are sitting or standing, so changing from sitting to standing becomes less of a struggle.

Tuning

Check if you are in tune each practice session. Over the years this will increase your musical ear, enabling you to hear and distinguish notes unaided. The easiest way to tune is using the fifth fret trick.

Warm ups

Warm ups are essential, and there is a whole list of reasons why. It is good for your health, endurance, confidence, theory and skills. Warm ups get your muscles and joints stretched and ready in exactly the same way an athletes warm ups do, and so they keep hands and wrists healthy and going for longer. They also provide some time to get over the rough playing that occurs when you have cold or tired hands, or if you have not played for a while. It can destroy performer confidence to mess-up a piece that seemed oh-so easy in practice. Theory (like scales) can be practised as a warm up, providing an easy way to learn (some of us guitarists are scared of books). Last but not least it can improve your skills by teaching the value of patience and simplicity, warm up with a metronome and keep it simple.

Exercises make good warm ups as well as scales, as long as you keep relaxed and simple. Any tension inhibits speed and leads to injury. It is good to use alternating picking as a warm up using all the fingers and keeping right-hand movements as consistent and small as possible, to save energy and time. A chord warm up is also very healthy for left-hand development.