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> Versatility Vs. Expertise; Variety Vs. Intensity, How to practice?
post Today, 10:34 AM
Post #1

Learning Roadie

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Hi guys,

I'd like to know your thoughts on how to practice new material in order to develop further. Specifically I'm interested in what you think of the amount of new material in relation to how much time you have; that is, how much new stuff should one practice? The context for this post is that I aim to be a versatile guitarist, not knowing too much of a thing, but being able to play most styles at least rudimentarily.

For example, I had some 4-5 lessons going on recently. I was dealing with Muris' Lydian riffs and Phrasing lessons, Ivan's SRV lesson, Muris' advanced BB minor lesson and Vasilije's Jazz Etude lesson. My idea was that it didn't matter so much whether I could play it all - I knew I couldn't - but that I expose myself to as many new ideas as possible in order to develop faster.

It was a nice idea, and I think it has its merits. I noticed, however, that pretty soon the advanced lesson had completely fallen out of my routine. It was followed by the riffing lesson, which I had mastered. I kept on bouncing back and forth between the SRV and etude lessons, but ended up letting the etude go, too, for the time being.

The reason for this was that I felt I wanted to focus on building one thing at a time; in this case, it was mastering the faster, more challenging runs on a single lesson. Now I've built my speed somewhat, without completely abandoning the other material I originally intended to learn.

So what do you think? Is it best to

- learn a single lesson at a time, pushing your concentration to the maximum? This has its intensity and focus as a pro. However, sometimes it's better for the brain to have variety - not all progress is linear, and sometimes practicing apparently unrelated stuff (fingerpicking vs. alternate picking, jazz vs. metal) leads to progress on the other.

- learn as much from different areas as possible? This has variety and novelty as its pro; at least you won't get bored. However, learning isn't easy, and such practice would take its toll on focus and memory. I can imagine becoming quickly overwhelmed by the new material, and not being able to form any kind of a framework for all the new ideas. One might end up chicken picking jazzy arpeggios to a thrash metal song, so to say (which might sound good, I don't know, but you get the idea). Another weakness to this approach is that it doesn't provide enough intensity for diligent technical practice. For example, I would need to put a LOT of hours to get that Bb minor advanced lesson right; simply trying it every now and then isn't enough - or at least it takes a lot more time to achieve results.

- aim for a compromise, weighing the "intensity" factor? That is, take a couple of lessons or one lesson, which you practice like you never did, whereas you keep a couple of other lessons in the background - to which you return for, say, 20% of the time you use for practice? This would have the benefit of intensity without losing the big picture - you're exposed to new material, you don't forget to stay creative, you stay interested, and you can go deep at the same time. A potential weakness is that this style might still not provide enough variety.

- aim for a compromise, weighing the "variety" factor? This means taking some 4-5 lessons, and giving about 20% for each of them. One might do this in a variety of ways, say, use 15 minutes a day for each lesson, or use a week for one lesson at a time, and so on.

- aim for a more complex solution, using each and every one of these approaches, periodizing one's routine? This is a familiar approach in sports and strength training. It would look something like this: I take a single lesson and work at it for two weeks all the way. Then I take a couple of other lessons, to which I give more time, but I return to the first lesson for, say, 20% of the time. The next couple of weeks I'd try to immerse myself into as many new songs as I ever could. The next couple of weeks I try to remember as much of this material as possible, but only devoting 20% of my time to it - the rest goes to practicing intensely a single lesson. The next couple of weeks I only practice a single thing... and so on.

I realize all of this depends on one's goals and expectations - do I expect to become a superb tapping machine as fast as possible, or do I expect to be able to both tap and know some chords? And so on. However, the idea of "block periodization" interests me, and I'd like to know your thoughts too. smile.gif
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post Today, 11:30 AM
Post #2

Learning Rock Star

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The short answer is, as you say, it depends on goals and expectations, and not only that - we all learn differently.

- Does it work for you? Yes? Then maybe continue.
- Could it work better for you? Yes? Then maybe expand on your idea.
- Does it not work for you? Then maybe re-invent your practice routine.

I am not quite there yet, but I had to approach my practicing (or lack of) from a different way. I used to think "I should practice this for 30 minutes" and write "legato: 30 minutes" as a goal of a practice routine. For me that didn't work, as I would practice 1 minute and blame myself for not doing 30 minutes, and I would tell myself it wasn't good enough. In a way that made any practice not be good enough, while in reality 1 minute is better than 0 minutes. So I have worked on a practice log, and I'm still working on it:

It is to encourage me to spend the time I feel like and want to spend, while also maintaining a vision of progress. Now, this is a bit besides your point of course. Evaluate your goals, your methods and see where it gets you.

If you do 2 months of tapping to become a tapping master, then 2 months of alternate picking to become a master of that and so on, you will eventually find you need to maintain that level, I think. That does not mean you will lose your skill set. It's a bit like riding a bicycle. Once it's really placed in there, I don't think you forget that easily. I know there's some muscle memory and training in that, but if you have practiced regularly and been comfortable at 170 bpm and that has been stored, then if you take a break for 2 months you won't be pushed all the way back to 120 bpm - or at least it likely wouldn't take you as long to get up to speed as it took in the first place.

I think your complex solution is good too, as it's a good compromise. I think that would work for me personally. I have wanted similar when it comes to classes in school, but it's hard to tell whether it would work in areas such as that.

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