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HOW I PRACTICE

"Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good - Malcolm Gladwell


FOCUS ON TODAY'S WEAKNESS The first thing I do when I sit down is a devote a few minutes to a singular technique practice. Which technique practice varies from day to day, and will be based on which technique issue is my "Personal Weakest Issue" at that moment. I typically choose just one of the many technique lessons laid out in the PFM that addresses the issue I am having. I have been playing for 60 years, and everything in the Course is what I have stored in my muscle memory.

Let's say that today I recognized that my blocking slipped on Monday night with the Time Jumpers. To work on that issue, I would choose to run through each of the Picking Permutation two or three times (Always Slowly) to refresh my muscle memory on the various shapes of blocks. Side note: The PFM course has lessons on all of the technical issues I focus on on any given day. The technique issues are highlighted as singular lessons. I typically work on one singular issue per practice day because over time I noticed I get more mileage that way.

PRACTICE TOWARDS YOUR GOALS

For the rest of my remaining time I will practice on whatever my goal is that day. Mostly my goal is to keep the phone ringing! I love playing as much as possible, and I mostly play sessions or work in band situations where backing a singer and serving the song is the mission. My musical goal is to get better at those skills.


RETURN TO TODAY'S WEAKNESS

The last two or three minutes of the practice session is a repeat of the day's first few minutes: going back over the day's chosen technical practice. I include all of the nuances as my options for technique practice: Vibrato, Bar Accuracy, Honing the Volume Pedal, Pedal Squeezes, Picking Dynamics, etc. Technique practice is the same as hitting a bucket of balls before tackling the golf course. If you practice being accurate, dynamic, and expressive, that is how you will sound.

PRACTICING WITHOUT A GUITAR

Tomorrow I could decide I am weakest at "playing from Amin7th to C#dim7th". In that (and many other cases), I don't need to be sitting at the guitar to work on it. Much of my practice is done without a guitar: I think about intervals over chords all of the time, especially during any idle time I may have.


COMPOSING

When I am at the guitar, my most productive time is spent composing and gathering little personal musical or harmonic nuggets for later use. There are loads of lessons on the concepts I use to create/compose new ideas to memorize in the PFM. Composing is my favorite focus, as it is usually the most beneficial time spent. I am always composing short ideas to store in my muscle memory. Once an idea is composed, I will immediately record it and then I play it over a progression repeatedly until it is memorized and internalized.

INSTANT RECALL I want everything I learn to reside in my "instant recall" region of the brain. I never want to think about anything as I play my various gigs. To accomplish that freedom, I must not lose any new or old ideas. If I think a move sounds cool for various musical situations, it eventually comes out in my playing due to this memorization practice. My reality is this: I may not use any new composed idea on a record for a year or more, yet, I could use it this afternoon on the gig. I have to be ready, so I anticipate where I want to go and focus on getting there.

VARIETY This approach was taught to me by my teacher, Wanda Breuning, and it is the outline I have always used. The middle parts of any practice session always change. Once the fundamental playing skills and theory concepts were internalized, I never practiced the same content the exact same way at practice time.

ALWAYS PROGRESSING

The quickest way to spin my wheels is if I try covering too many technical issues at once. That would make me a "jack-of-all-techniques and a master-of-none". I always say I am an "Eternal Beginner". Focusing on one issue at a time is my personal direction on any given day. I believe strictly following this outline defines who I am as a player.

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