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Ideas About Practicing



One of the more difficult aspects of teaching classical guitar is showing your student how to practice at home. Naturally your approach will be quite different with the young child, the teenager and your adult beginning student. However I think some basic ideas about practicing are valid for teaching all students.

Study the piece together at lesson time. First play the piece through for your student so he gets some idea of the whole composition. Then begin asking questions.

“What can you tell me about this piece? At first you may get a blank look and no answer at all.

 Then make a few suggestions:

“What is the time signature? How can we count this piece? Where do you think the melody is? In the bass or the treble?”


“What is the form of the piece? Is there a beginning A section that repeats? Then a new B section and does A repeat at the end? Maybe this piece will really be easy to learn and play well. You only have sections A and B to learn because A repeats at the end. Look how easy this will be.”

Then we may play just the rhythm of the piece using an open string E. And we count as we play the rhythm. Once that has been established we will probably play the melody alone using the correct rhythm.

Perhaps there are some difficult chords in the piece. Perhaps we circle those chords and suggest that we take out just those chords at first and practice them separately. Maybe we want to use the Count Down to help make learning the chords easier.

All this preparation before actually starting to practice this piece, phrase by phrase will awaken our student’s curiosity. It will make teaching the piece so much more exciting and interesting.

Does your student listen to what sound, what tone he is making when he plays a single phrase? Is it musical or is it muddy?

After all music is sound not notes on a page.

Sometimes ask your student to tape his practice session at home and bring it to class. Or tell your student at lesson time “I would like to hear how you practiced this lesson at home”

You will learn quite a bit about your student by listening to how he practices. Perhaps you can give some suggestions to help him use his practice time at home more effectively.

Point out to your student that mere repetition without thinking is often a waste of practice time. Suggest some new or more interesting ways to practice.  Just getting his fingers to go mechanically over and over a set of notes will not be enough.

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The balance of Ideas About Practicing can be found in The Joy of Music – A Life Time of Teaching.

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