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The Power of Repetition
What leads to mastery isn’t necessarily cramming in as many different exercises into one and repeating those but instead working on smaller fragments of those exercises to the point where they require little to almost no effort or thinking.
Once you are able to play these smaller exercises at the highest level you can, they become more easily applicable to different contexts. It will feel a lot less like learning a new exercise. Instead it will feel very similar to the exercise you have already mastered only with slight little adjustments (different scale shapes, different strings, different parts of the fretboard etc), which don't require the same amount of effort to master.
The reason for this is that the foundation of whatever technique you’ve mastered has already been established. If you compare this to practicing one exercise in all the different positions and shapes you know, each time you change position or shape you are giving yourself a new challenge. The reps for each individual position or shape is greatly reduced. It is also more taxing on the brain to constantly be changing focus.
Zeroing in on just one exercise to the point of mastery allows you to focus on ONLY ONE THING at a time. Each repetition gets reinforced into your muscle memory. This saves you a great amount of time. Once that one exercise feels effortless, playing that in a different position will require very little effort since a solid foundation has already been established.
What to Practice?
This approach can and should be used for every area of playing you wish to master. From switching chords to scale sequences to tapping to sweep picked arpeggios to slides and bends and vibrato. Remember, the key here is to break down these techniques into the smallest fragments.
These fragments can even be further broken down into each individual hand. For example, only isolating the picking motions for a specific exercise without any input from your fretting hand. Similarly, you can isolate only your fretting hand motions without any picking hand input. What this does is give each hand independence. They will no longer need input from the other hand in order to pull off a particular motion. Once both hands are independent from each other, combining them will feel much easier.
What to focus on?
The main area of focus using this approach is relaxation. Any new technique will feel alien in the beginning. It will also require a lot of tension to pull off simply because your hands aren’t used to those movements yet. It might seem hard to fathom if you have been playing guitar for a while, but think of this, how did it feel the very first time you played a simple D open chord? It is guaranteed that for every single played that D chord felt foreign and as if your fingers were not meant to play that shape. Eventually as you worked on it, it felt easier and easier and most likely now, holding down that D chord requires zero thinking. This same principle applies to anything you do on the guitar.
With each rep you do on whatever exercise you’re working on, pay attention to how much tension is in your hands. Try to reduce that tension with each rep. This will require some time but keep focusing on reducing the tension each time you work on it. Everything you do should feel as relaxed as possible.
The next thing to focus on is efficiency of motion. This ties back to reducing tension. If there is tension in your hands, your motions are less efficient. Your fretting hand fingers SHOULD NOT be flying off the fretboard regardless of whether you’re playing chords or single notes. Same applies to your picking hand. Your picking motions should be nice and tight and not wide and far away from the string you’re picking.
One more area of focus which is often overlooked is what your whole body is doing when working on that exercise. Your whole body should be as relaxed as possible. Common issues are tensing of the back, arms and shoulders, clenching of the jaw, clenching or stretching of the feet and toes, and even holding of your breath. Pay attention to each of these potential areas of tension when practicing. Make sure these areas are as relaxed as possible and you are always breathing while playing.
Remember to spend a significant amount of time on each small fragment of little exercises before adding more to them or moving on to something else. Implement these approaches and you will be on your way to guitar mastery!!!
Learning to play guitar on your own can be frustrating and challenging, especially if you don’t know what to do. Having a great teacher makes the whole process more fun, enjoyable and gets you real results fast.
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