I have many music idol. I remember being blown away seeing Tommy Emmanuel wreck his guitar on stage. It seems impossible how a man can do such a feat. The more I learn, the more I feel frustrated because it seems so far and seems impossible to achieve that skills of my idols. Then as I mingle around in music scene, I found out that many local musician can do wonders too. How do they acquire that skills? Many times I ask but the most common answer that I get is practice. Yes I know practice. At one time, I practice guitar 8 hours a day for a couple of months straight. And I maintain pay practice up to 4 hours daily for years. But I doesn’t bring me there. Or should I ask how to practice effectively?
Two decades has passed and i’m not anywhere good in my guitar playing. Im just average guitar player. I’m already in music education line for nearly a decade. Suddenly, like jigsaw puzzle, it all fall onto me. I guess thanks to new things that I learn in education line and thanks to the music teachers that I’ve met. Suddenly I found a way of how to improve our music skills fast and here they are.
#1 Acquire New Skill
When teacher tells you to do a new task, it is often difficult to begin and have to start slow. You may not hear the music right or the sound doesn’t seems right. Yes, slow is boring. Be patient and give yourself a couple of day practice.
You also need to know whether your new task is suitable at your current level or not. Beware of picking up something too far ahead from your current skill level. You might stuck right there for a long time. Learning progressively is always the best method.
Repeat your exercise. Start at slow tempo and then gradually increase till to achieve your desired tempo. Here is also the time you need to take care of the tone and dynamic as well.
What ever instruments that you are playing, you play by engaging your muscle to do a certain task. And therefore, you are training your muscle to memorise the task rather than memorising the task in your head. By doing so, you are also freeing the workload from your brain and let it focus on other thing.
Now it is time to apply your newly learned exercise and here is where the fun begin. You may try play along with songs, play with your band mate, and play it as whole. You may also experiment with other element like different sound or groove. You may improvise if you wish too. You may correct your mistakes if you have any or you may change some details to fit with your band mate. But if you are learning classical pieces, please don’t improvise.
# 4 Forget it
The last step is to practice again until it seep into your muscle memory. You will feel freedom to play. Not only you can play without stress but you want to play more because it is satisfying. This is the time where you feel like want to record it down and post to YouTube or perform to show people. There is nothing like the feeling of performing music on stage. Once you got that, you will want to do that again and again.
At the age of 40, I put myself into test. I pick up something that I don’t know which is drum. After a few classes, I sign up to take Rockschool Exam at grade 4 and it took me 6 months from zero to the day of the exam. I apply this method and I put more effort into the smaller difficult part. When I try to play the entire song, I play slower than original. Not much fun but I see progress and I can gauge that I’ll be there on time. And good bless me the method works and I pass.