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So in an effort to revitalize myself musically I have begun new habits, like practicing.  Yeah I’ve been bad about practicing for years.  But I need to be better at piano and I miss being able to use a pick well on guitar.  So I’m spending a half hour almost every day practicing piano and guitar.  Well a hour half each that is.

The trick to good practice involves several aspects, not the least of which is goals.  Have something simple and achievable for the half hour period but also be sure that you have a weekly, monthly, and yearly goal as well.  The monthly and yearly goals probably won’t be readily apparent until you’ve spent some time with the instrument.  My weekly goal for instance on piano is to play the first page of this jazz waltz I have.  My monthly goal for piano is to play the whole piece.  My day to day goals typically involve either memorizing a line or getting used to a change over.

Also metronome.  If you want to be a good musician you have to use a metronome when you practice.  Knowing where the beat is is imperative to rhythm and increasing playing speed.  And speed isn’t restricted to death metal.  Listen to David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul from the Aladdin Sane album for instance.  There’s a lot of speed there but its not a high bpm song.

Learn the whole song of whatever it is you’re learning.  Sure you might not be able to play the solo within the week but make it a yearly goal.  If you’re learning Dream Theater’s Erotomanic for instance, learn all the rhythm riffs the first month or two.  Then start learning a new song but save 5-10 minutes to work on the solos.  The hardest part about a Dream Theater solo is speed so those minutes could easily be spent ramping up the metronome while keeping up with a few scales.  If its a Megadeth song, Marty Friedman is a fan of neck wide appregios so work on those.  The trick is figuring out what the difficulty is derivative of and training that skill consistently over a regular period of time.

For me right now, its basic chromatic sixteenth notes with a pick on guitar.  Start on the low E, play 4 notes, change strings and move up a fret.  Then repeat back down.  I’m only at 150 bpm at the moment but I’m hoping to be up to 200 bpm by the end of the month since I used to be able to do that.  Occasionally I’ll switch to the model system and make up a quick neck run.  On piano its this book called “A Dozen a Day” or something to that effect of mechanical exercises and a song called “Waltz” that’s a little jazzy and this beginner piano book that I got when I was in high school.  Next week or the week after I might break out the sheet music to Muse’s “Apocalypse Please”.  The main difficulty in “Apocalypse Please” is being able to stretch.  Not like Rachmaninoff stretch but healthy large 7 to 8 note chord stretches.

And lastly don’t burn yourself out.  Limit your time.  I’m doing a half hour a day 3 or 4 days a week.  I haven’t gone as far to pick a consistent time each day but I’m typically doing it after work from 6-7.  Yeah sometimes you may want to spend an entire evening practicing.  The trick is to quit before you get angry.  And if you’re the type who starts out angry the trick then becomes simply not getting angry.  And on the other end of the spectrum you don’t want to only spend 5 or 10 minutes practicing.  To paraphrase my old martial arts teach once you’re worn out is when you start to learn.

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