What’s the use of practicing guitar if you’re headed toward burnout? Whenever you’re working on something–a song, as skill, and exercise–you should be listening to your gut, asking yourself if what you’re doing is inspiring you.
I mention this because in yesterday’s post How To Practice, I listed some principles for practicing that some of you might consider a bit anal (as the psychotherapists put it). We guitarists are generally more laid-back than your average, say, oboe player. We like to break the rules, make weird noises, and occasionally smash our instruments for thousands of screaming fans. (Maybe oboe players would smash their instruments too if it didn’t look so silly, I don’t know.)
So whenever I teach a finger exercise or use the metronome with my students, I tell them that they shouldn’t use it if it’s making them reach for the lighter fluid (you young folks may not be aware of the famous story of Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire). The most important thing you can do to get better at the guitar is to practice a lot, so whatever you’re doing needs to keep you motivated.
For example, I learned the principles in How to Practice when my guitar teacher Jay taught me a highly structured practice routine that was too rigid for my tastes. It involved using an egg timer and practicing in 5-minute intervals, counting correct repetitions, and starting over when a mistake is made. It was cool to try out, but eventually the egg timer got on my nerves. That’s when I knew that I needed to adapt the technique to match my personality. Now I still try to avoid mistakes, but there’s no egg timer, and no counting. I repeat a passage until I think I’ve got it. And I’m loving it the whole time.