I’m always rattling on about good quality practice being one of the keys to progress on the classical guitar and I’ve written previously on what makes for good quality practice. There are also a number of things you can do prior to your session to ensure you’re ready and set-up for making the most of your practice time.
So here, folks, are five things that I find help really set me up for a good practice session:
(1) Prep your nails
Make sure your right hand fingernails are shaped, nick free and playing surfaces are glossed to a high shine. Then they’re ready to make the most beautiful tones for you! Also make sure your left hand (or fretting hand) nails are nice and trimmed down so they don’t catch or dig into the fretboard. It’s kind of annoying and a little disruptive to realise that you need to trim them halfway through an exercise or a piece and then go searching for your nail scissors. Get into the habit of making sure your nails are prepped and ready before your practice session and then you won’t have to think about it during your session.
(2) Know what you want to achieve in this session
This is a big one (and I’ve dedicated a blog post to this subject recently in its own right – Pre-Practice Preparation) – knowing what you want to get out of a session, what you want to overcome, figure out, nut out, play differently, read through etc. is key to maximising your time. Decide what it is you want to do, commit to doing that and you’re halfway there.
(3) Get your music, exercises, sight-reading, metronome, pencil, eraser and whatever other materials you’ll need for your practice right there on the stand or within arm’s reach.
Fluffing around, getting up and down, digging around on a bookshelf or in a bag for music or other bits and bobs can create a distraction and disrupt the creative juices. Because you’ll have thought about what it is you want to do in your practice session as per (2) above, that will help you think about what it is you’ll need to have around you for your practice. Grab a little side table, or another chair, and pop your various bits and bobs there ready for you to access easily.
(4) Grab a glass of water (or a cup of tea if it’s chilly which is what I’m doing in the Melbourne winter at the moment!)
A glass of water is, plain and simply, good for the obvious reasons of staying hydrated and helping maintain your focus.
(5) Tune up!
This is an absolute must. Do not launch into playing without first checking you’re in tune. Whether you do this by ear, digital tuner, via an app on your phone, piano, tuning fork or whatever, make sure you’re in tune. It may not be so obvious to the beginner, but the guitar does out of tune incrediby quickly and so tuning each time you come to play is very important. The more you play and develop, the more sensitive your ear will become to the tuning and will it become second nature. If you don’t do this already, this a very good habit to start to get into.