Adventure Practice: Adding Novelty to Guitar Practice

With regular daily guitar practice, it can help to mix things up sometimes.

Most days, we can sit down and do our routines as planned.  The first few minutes may be a little distracted, but we settle in and do the good work.

But some days, we really don’t want to practice.  We fill resistance.  On these days, it helps to have an ace up your sleeve…

If Your Guitar Practice Gets Stale…

If we do the same routine every day, we may fall into a rut. And when this happens, learning slows or stops. The mind wanders and practice becomes rote.

Instead, we can notice when we start to feel stale. At these times, a bit of variation is called for.

We’ll go through a few ways to add spice to practice below.

If Boredom is Chronic, You’re Not Doing it Right

Ideally, we add constant variation and novelty to practice.

We do this by finding small challenges that are hard, but not too hard. We seek out the edge of our abilities and gently nudge them further.

If boredom is a regular occurrence, we should first look at how we’re practicing. Chances are, we’re not riding this challenge/skills sweet spot.

The “adventure practice” options below are short-term remedies to keep momentum and enthusiasm. They are not a substitute for effective practice in general.

A Change of Scene: Practice in a Different Place

It can be a whole different experience to practice in a different place.

This could be in a different room. It could be outside. It could even be turned in a different direction in the same room.

Any change in the visual field will perk the mind and freshen a practice.

Scramble the Schedule: Practice at a Different Time

If we have a regular practice, it most likely happens at the same time each day. It fits into the other tasks we do.

We can churn this schedule to create variation. Our energy, focus, and attention can vary widely throughout the day.

Practicing at a different time can use the brain in new ways.

For example, we could practice just after a relaxing bath. Or after a cold shower.

We could practice before bed, or first thing in the morning.

We could even wake in the night and practice, if this seems like a good idea at the time.

Any different time can keep our fingers limber and still fill the need for a change-up.

Construct an Occasion

If practice is feeling humdrum and repetitive, we have the option of framing it as a special occasion.

Instead of feeling like a utilitarian chore, we can turn it into a treat.

Dress Up (or down)

We can put on our Sunday best. Suit and tie.

The long-forgotten clothes in the back of the closet that used to be in style, but no longer are.

Or a Halloween costume.

Or even nothing at all!

Set a special atmosphere

We can also create a new scene.

We can change the sound, lighting, or environment.

For example, we could light candles and dim the lights.

We could play a forest soundtrack over a speaker and bring all the houseplants together into one corner.

We could bring in a favorite fragrance or taste.

The sky’s the limit, and we can let the creativity run wild.

Up the Stakes: Add Pressure

Another great way of adding novelty to a practice session is to create pressure.

In moments of pressure, our bodies and brains act differently than usual. And this can help us learn faster.

It can also be thrilling.

Video yourself

Turn on the video camera or phone and hit record. Treat it like a concert. One take, no going back to fix mistakes.

No one ever has to see it unless you decide to share it.

The main point is to add an urgent consequence to the playing. This increases our awareness and doesn’t let us play mindlessly.

Play for others

We can also play for others. This could be live or virtual.

We can grab anyone nearby and ask if we can play for them. They will almost always say yes.

Or we can hop on a Zoom call, Facebook Live, Youtube Live, or any other real-time video streaming.

Use Strategic Distraction

The last Adventure Practice method here should be used with caution. It’s fun occasionally, but is a terrible habit.

We can use a strategic distraction. This could be a movie, TV, a podcast, or audio book.

Avoid anything inflammatory and subjects that have severe emotional charge.

Think of this as background entertainment to which you only partially follow. Most of your attention is still on your practice.

Chances are, any practice done with such distraction will be of lower quality than fully-focused practice. Attention is, after all, a main ingredient for learning.

Still, used sparingly, this can bridge the days where we may not practice otherwise.

Practice is a Skill: Practice It

The above options can help keep practice fun and engaging. Especially on days when we feel resistance to sitting down and getting to work.

As a regular part of musical practice, it’s best to constantly refine and expand our practice skills.

We can learn a number of different practice techniques and methods. We can explore different ways to learn new pieces, troubleshoot the tricky spots, and polish music to performance level.

Over time, practice becomes an evolving daily puzzle. We combine different formulas and angles to solve new challenges.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

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