Every month, Justin San­der­coe of justin­gui­ lends GT his in­sight as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful gui­tar teach­ers. This month: five minute mir­a­cles.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS - Get more info and links to re­lated lessons on all Justin’s GT ar­ti­cles at www. justin­gui­tar. com/gt­mag

Justin San­der­coe’s in­struc­tive col­umn; plus Ses­sion Shenani­gans, Jam Tracks and more.

When I was 18 years old and I was ac­cepted into the lo­cal clas­si­cal con­ser­va­toire I had a lot of stuff I had to study. On top of the clas­si­cal reper­toire, tech­niques and har­mony I had to study for the course, I was des­per­ate to learn more about jazz and rock gui­tar. Luck­ily, I had a great teacher (thanks Johnny Mac!) who helped me sort out a proper prac­tice rou­tine for the first time to cover ev­ery­thing I needed. I was do­ing eight hours a day bro­ken into half-hour chunks and I got into tick­ing boxes on a chart I would make up, and found it to be a very self mo­ti­vat­ing and re­ward­ing way to prac­tice.

The big per­sonal break­through came when I re­alised how much bet­ter I could fo­cus when I had a set amount of time to prac­tice any given ex­er­cise, rather than just work­ing on things as I felt like it and for as long as I liked. I started ex­per­i­ment­ing with the amount of time I could keep prop­erly fo­cused and how much time I needed be­tween ex­er­cises. I’ve since looked more into the con­cept and found that many peo­ple have stud­ied the ef­fect of us­ing a timer to main­tain fo­cus, and it’s pretty much proven that it is more ef­fec­tive to work with a set end point than not (I’ll add some links on the web­site link shown in the footer of this ar­ti­cle).

What I rec­om­mend for prac­tice is to di­vide your to­tal avail­able prac­tice time in two. Have half for com­pletely free fun play – just en­joy the gui­tar, play songs, ex­plore sounds, tech­niques, what­ever – and then make a rou­tine for the other half, though I rec­om­mend do­ing the rou­tine first or you might jam your way out of time for the se­ri­ous stuff (eat your veg­eta­bles be­fore dessert!).

Start small, pick your­self four tech­nique ex­er­cises that you would like to work on and try us­ing this timer idea. Do five min­utes on each ex­er­cise and have your­self a two-minute break be­tween ex­er­cises. I find the count­down timer on my phone eas­i­est to use but a kitchen timer or what­ever you have is fine; but try to find some­thing with a ‘beep’ at the end so you are not clock watch­ing. Don’t be tempted to leave out the breaks; it’s be­lieved they help in­for­ma­tion move from short-term to long-term mem­ory – it also al­lows mus­cles a break from phys­i­cal work­outs.

One thing you will find is that ran­dom thoughts can drift into your mind and you want to help them pass by re­new­ing your fo­cus on the ex­er­cise you are on. Try not to let your mind wan­der at all – it’s very likely it will when you start try­ing out this method so the chal­lenge is as much to keep fo­cus as the ex­er­cise it­self! Re­mem­ber you need to know what to fo­cus on for ev­ery­thing you prac­tice. If you’re not sure why you are prac­tic­ing some­thing, then ei­ther find out, or don’t prac­tice it!

Make sure you are fully pre­pared be­fore you start; get your amp on and the tone right; make sure you have any notes you need out (scale di­a­grams, tran­scrip­tions or what­ever) so you’re ready to start play­ing as soon as you hit start. You’ll find it help­ful to turn your phone off (or at least on silent) and don’t let your­self get dis­tracted for five min­utes un­less it’s an emer­gency. Make tea, go to the loo, check emails or Face­book or what­ever you need to do be­fore you start. Ask fam­ily not to dis­turb you for the next half hour.

I found that I go into a kind of ‘prac­tice zone’ as soon as I hit the start but­ton on my timer and very rarely do ran­dom thoughts in­ter­rupt me, but I con­sis­tently worked on my fo­cus to get that. The re­sults can be pro­found and I had many stu­dents say that they were mak­ing no­tice­ably more progress once they started em­ploy­ing the timed prac­tice ap­proach. I highly rec­om­mend giv­ing it a try to see if it works for you – you might find your own five-minute mir­a­cle!

di­vide your prac­tice time into two: half for fun play and a set rou­tine for the other half

Justin sug­gests you prac­tise in five-minute stints

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