Are You Getting Tired in Your Guitar Practice?
Everything is set, we’ve carved out time for a wonderful guitar practice session.
But then, a few minutes in, exhaustion hits. Our mind grows hazy. Our body wants to slump. We’re tired.
This a common issue in the day-to-day of learning classical guitar. So what to do?
Guitar Practice is Work, and Takes Serious Energy
First, classical guitar is complex. It takes massive mental and physical energy.
Classical guitar demands our entire focus and attention. We manage myriad details. From fingers to body mechanics, from music notation to memory. We gauge volume, tone, speed and more at any given moment.
So it’s no wonder guitar practice can take a toll.
Mental and Physical Fatigue is Normal
Anytime we do intensive mental and physical work, we’re likely to get tired. This is completely normal. It happens to everyone at all ages (though at different rates and to varying extents).
The good news is that we can set ourselves up for the best chances of an engaged and energetic practice.
First Check for Low-Hanging Fruit
To maximize energy in practice, we can start with the general, then get more specific. Small changes can add up to make serious improvements to our energy levels in practice.
Time of Day
What time of day are we practicing? Most people are more able to do challenging mental work in the morning.
If we practice at night, we may be operating on less than our optimal energy. By nightfall, we may face decision-fatigue, coffee-crashes, and a natural inclination to wind down. So the night may not be the best time to practice.
Another option is to experiment with Split-Practices. Some materials may be better to do in the morning, whereas others would be best to focus on later on in the day.
We can experiment with practicing at different times of the day. Through testing, we can see how time affects our ability to focus.
Environment also plays a big part in our ability to maintain attention. Sound, light, and visual distraction can all put stress on our faculties.
Be it the television in the next room or someone else’s phone conversation, extra sound in the practice room is distracting. Close the door and create a quiet space in which to practice.
Light temperature and level can also affect us. If the lights are low, we may become sleepy. If the lights are warm (no blue light), our internal systems may take that as a signal to get ready for bed.
Light on the bluer spectrum is stimulating, which can be good for practice. (But if we practice at night, the blue light could also affect the quality of our sleep.)
Also, the other items in our visual field while practicing make a difference. If we face a messy room, a pile of dirty dishes, or other “to-dos” in our practice space, we may become distracted and fatigued.
Instead, face your music stand into a corner. The sound reflects back for better hearing, and there is less visual distraction.
If we slump, compressing our front, we don’t breathe as well. With lower-quality breathing comes less oxygen. This can cause tiredness in practice.
An upright sitting position can help keep us engaged and alert.
Likewise, frequent “stand-up breaks” can keep our blood flowing and minds alert. Whenever we switch to a new practice area (a different exercise or piece of music), we can stand up and move around. These few seconds can keep our energy high.
Brains use glucose. A few minutes of challenging practice can burn through all our available stores. So a piece of fruit or other snack before practice can help.
As with anything health or food-related, experiment and see what helps.
Check in with Overall Health and Energy Levels
Getting tired in practice may also be a signal that our general health and energy are not at their best. While this is not meant as medical advice, we can reasonably evaluate the basics.
Without adequate sleep, we’re likely to become depleted during mental and physical exertion. A 20-minute nap just before practice can bring fresh energy to our work.
And if a nap is not possible, a few moments of sitting quietly with eyes closed can offer rest.
Hydration affects mental performance. If we are even a little dehydrated, we won’t be as sharp as we could be.
A glass of water before practice, and in any breaks, can help us stay mentally lubricated.
Basic exercise (walking, moving) helps the brain and energy levels. If we are largely sedentary, this may be the cause of our sleepiness in practice. A short walk each day can do wonders for our energy levels throughout the day.
Moderate exercise also increases sleep quality. So we get the compound effects this brings.
Experiment and Track Your Results
With any change to our habits and routines, results will vary. Not everything will help everyone. So we can experiment and track our responses. We some trial and error, we may find the golden ticket for our own practices.
At the very least, we’ll have more insight into what does and doesn’t work for us.
Classical guitar is a lifelong journey. We have all the time in the world to refine and test, but no time to waste. Energizing and rewarding practices await, and the small changes we make let us enjoy more of them.
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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