Hey everyone, welcome back to my little Guitar Philosophy section of the Andrew White Blog Library.
In the last blog we talked about taking a break from the guitar, and how that can be a good thing. I don’t think it’s something you should do for very long, but it’s good to do often. Let’s talk about actually making it work, and how to make it part of our practice routine–not just a permanent vacation.
Why take a break from the guitar?
First of all, this advice does not apply to beginners. Beginners–play hard, play every day!
Personally, I play a lot of guitar–typically for several hours a day. And I’ve been playing for over 20 years. It’s easy for me to lose a little bit of the desire and motivation to break new ground for myself when I’m usually teaching the basics, coming up with lessons, or making content. Since I know myself, and I know that can lead to burnout, I willfully put down the guitar for about a week out of every month (aside from my lessons) just so that I can reset, and come back with fresh ears.
Your schedule will be different than mine, and maybe you’re at a point where you don’t need a break–which is great! But if you’ve played yourself into a corner, maybe you should schedule yourself a very specific amount of time to take a short break, and stick to your schedule. It may be one or two days out of the week, or it may be one week out of the month.
But then you have to make a comeback.
If you’ve taken a break from the guitar for a day, a few days, or even a week, it’s important to enter into your next practice cycle with a clear set of goals, and what I think of as a sort of “comeback” mentality.
When it comes to performance, I try to keep my ego pretty far away from my playing. On the other hand, when I’m practicing I try to be hyper-aware and critical of everything I do.
Not when I’m writing, not when I’m improvising–but when I’m practicing. I need to motivate myself to get to the level I was at, and then push beyond.
To stay motivated and push beyond our current limits, keep in mind what we learned as beginners: that every hour spent practicing with your guitar might only amount to 5 minutes of actual performance (i.e. you learn a song, it takes an hour, but it’s only a 5 minute song) but the lessons that you learn will serve your guitar playing for a lifetime. The time you spend working on every nuance of what makes a great riff, or a great solo, or a great song great, will lead you to focusing deeply on how your body moves, and which sounds and feelings relate to those movements. This practice will be stored in your muscle memory, and in your short and long term memory. If you stay fresh with your practice, what you’ve learned will integrate into the way you play the guitar seamlessly.
So we have to come into practice every day with a clear mind, and a set of goals–some long term, some short term. It’s all part of what I talked about in the blog: playing with purpose. When you play with purpose, when you have a reason, it never feels like you’re wasting notes.
So that’s your challenge this week, even if you haven’t, and don’t need to take a break. When you play the guitar, take 15 minutes a day of your practice time, and play the guitar with every ounce of energy and intent that you have. It doesn’t matter what you’re playing, whether you’re learning a new chord progression, or working on your speed with a metronome. Put everything you have into every note. All your focus, all your emotion. It might sound exhausting, but when you work at it, it becomes a state of mind that you can go in and out of.
Get started working on your “Player’s Mentality.”