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6 top tips to make your learning fun

I remember when I was 10, my mum insisted as soon as I walked in the door after school that I devote 30 minutes to guitar practice. Now 50 years later I thank her for it.

In the way most of us learn to read and write words, music is exactly the same. We learn through repetition. When we repeat things over and over they stick in our minds. Just like remembering our times tables. The difference with a musical instrument is the body needs to remember as well. This is called muscle memory. When we use our hands and fingers our minds remember where they need to be placed in order to repeat the notes we have just played.

Here are my 6 top tips

Number 1:

Play your instrument in a quiet room away from distractions. You need to concentrate and you don't need your family or friends disturbing you. No radio and no television. Turn off your phone. It is only 30 minutes a day so make it "your personal time."

Number 2:

Prepare what you are going to play and prepare your practice area. If you are in your room make sure you have your music and your music stand set up and ready to go. Your instrument should be ready too. Set yourself up in a comfortable playing position. You don't want to sit down and find the piece of music is in another room or another folder.

Number 3:

Practice time. The 30 minutes should start NOW. If the piece is unfamiliar it is best to look through it for the first time before you attempt to play. This way you will see sections that will need extra care and attention. Begin to play the piece slowly. I cannot emphasize this enough. Most students tend to rush through and make too many mistakes. If you have a metronome use if you haven't got one I suggest you invest in one. Set it slow and later you will find you can increase the tempo and play along much more freely.

Number 4:

Now you have played through your practice pieces stop and look over where you made a mistake or found it difficult to play. This is the first part of the revision process. Select the first area and play it over "slowly" again. Did you make the same mistakes? Did you find you can correct them? These are questions that you need to ask yourself. Technique is important here. Your teacher would show the the correct procedure make sure you have understood their instructions. If you didn't write down your questions in the margin and that way you can ask at your next lesson.

Number 5:

Don't practice your mistakes. It is easy to rush through something and say that will do. We have all done that. By playing something wrong over and over you will always remember it the "wrong" way. Sometimes things are difficult to play. Our hands or our fingers won't work the way we would like. This is why we are practicing in the first place. To improve both our reading and our playing skills. Nobody is able to master their instrument in a few lessons. If you find you just can't get something "STOP." It gets to the point that matter what you might be trying you just cannot seem to get it. I promise you now that you will. Stop and rest and move onto something else. If you have a favourite piece go back and play that for a while. You will find that when you come back the next time the harder piece will be a little easier.

Number 6:

Have fun. Practice with a purpose and then play something you want to play for yourself. Your favourite song. Play until you feel you have achieved something. Surprisingly however, time will get away from you. As a 10 year old I would sit in my room playing my guitar and time would get away from me too. I would be surprised by my mum calling me to come to dinner and almost 2 hours had gone by.

Michael Prizeman Guitarist

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