The 5% Rule for “Someday” Techniques in Classical Guitar Practice
At any given time in our guitar studies, we have a set of techniques and pieces we work on. We can focus on these, even though we know there are other techniques and pieces in the future.
But sometimes we may feel called to work on a particular technique. This could be in preparation for future pieces, or just for fun.
This “someday” technique can be inspiring and motivating, even though it’s not currently needed in our practice.
“Someday” Techniques for Long-Term Guitar Mastery
We may have a certain piece in mind for the distant future. And this piece may include techniques or speeds we currently don’t possess.
So it can be fun to practice some elements of these now, in preparation for the piece later.
Some of these may include:
- Rest Stroke
- 3-Finger Scales
- Artificial Harmonics
- Specific passages from pieces
We can add these to our practice, but only in moderation. After all, we have plenty to do with our current workload. And if we are working with a good teacher or structured program, our current work is preparing us to play more advanced music later.
So how do we balance the now with later? How much should we practice these techniques for the future?
The 5% rule to Stay Focused on the Practical
As a general rule, we can keep the “someday” techniques to 5% or less of our practice time. This means we may touch on them for a minute or two in practice.
Over time, this adds up. We build the skills because we touch on them daily.
Likewise, we can work on the challenging bits of pieces for just a couple of minutes over time with great results.
But what if we feel motivated and excited about a certain technique? Can we do more?
If Inspired, Feel Free to Bootcamp a Technique
If we have a massive attraction to a specific technique or piece of music, we can “bootcamp” some element of it.
This means that for a preset period of time (say, one week), we give more practice time to it.
Few of us have endless practice time available. This means we’ll omit something else in practice. So there is a cost.
To bootcamp something in this way, we should be aware of the cost. We can then minimize any backsliding due to missed practice. We can do this by omitting a technique similar to the one we’ve decided to practice.
For example, say we decide to bootcamp tremolo technique. We can use the time we would have spent on other arpeggio practice. Because tremolo is an arpeggio technique, we still improve in this general area.
But we can still spend time on the other, less closely related areas (such as scales or left-hand exercises).
A solid long-term practice balances structure and repetition with spontaneity and exploration. The trick is to choose well and plan accordingly. This way we can still get our “vegetables” while occasionally gorging on “candy!”
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.
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