Looking Back: 4th Month

Fall Leaves


Adapting to additional practice strategies and fine tuning my deliberate practice regime intensified during my fourth month of lessons and life as a disciple of the guitar. I was quite confident that I would hit the milestone of four hours of daily practice by January 2013. I had only one exception to my self-imposed rule, that I would only practice two hours (split between two sessions) on my weekly lesson day. Taking an entire whole day off from practice was a thought that petrified me, so I remained faithful to daily, regimented practice. What if I got sick, I pondered. If I could make it to the bathroom, then surely I could pickup my guitar and practice in ten-minute chunks while convalescing.

After a few hours of mulling ideas around in my head, I formulated version 2.0 of my deliberate practice regime. The Core Practice set mainly involved newly assigned material and a collection of scales and chords frequently used in blues and jazz. I also made sure that the songs that made up my repertoire of previously covered music would receive enough attention to maintain an expected level of performance and competency. Use it or lose it, is the operative phrase to describe why it’s important to not let what you have learned be forgotten. When the size of the repertoire increases, so does the practice time. A quick review of my practice logs revealed that I got my best practice performance in 30 to 45 minute chunks, separated by 30 minutes of other music-related activities, such as updating my journal, blog, listening to a song with the intent of deconstructing it’s structure, or identifying specific goals for the next few sessions.

Core Practice: 90 minutes divided into two or three sessions.

  • New material
  • Scales
  • Chords
  • Repertoire of songs

The purpose of establishing targeted practice goals is to achieve a specific outcome. Perhaps I have performance issues with new material that need intense, focused practice; experimenting (improvising) with known scales and chords would be a great time to apply music theory concepts; or I may want to get creative with adding embellishments to a known song. The effort expended is all about maximizing my practice time and being proactive when it came to setting training goals.

Targeted Practice Goals: 90 minutes divided into two or three sessions.

  • Dynamic and TBD prior to a specific practice session

Aside from instrument practice, I had allocated four hours per week to general music studies as a holistic campaign to achieve better instrument performance; to increase my knowledge base of scales and chord construction; to add artistic creativity to arranging and playing music; and to pour the foundation needed for songwriting. Like any reputable coach would do, my music sensei played an advisory role in these specific areas by observing how my performance levels were advancing, or in some cases were declining. The knowledge I acquired in these areas significantly influenced the way I would approach my practice, more like the way of a Zen monk and less like a technician.

General Music Training: 4 hours per week.

  • Music theory
  • Sight reading
  • Ear training
  • Active listening

Somewhere in mid month I experienced my first inkling of what it was like to be a musician, whereby the time and effort I was devoting to music was illuminating the Way. The immersion process of learning was transforming my life from a retired IT grunt to a musician in training. Music invaded all aspects of my life: sleep, dreams, food, philosophy, and behavior. Wait, behavior? Yes, I got reacquainted with the boy inside me that I had left behind 45 years ago, lost interest in frivolous activities (like getting my hair cut), and viewed my guitar as a friend and a faithful companion.