Practice makes perfect – or does it?

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Every musician has to practice their instrument(s). Some do so more than others. A lot of people play so many gigs or recitals etc. that this becomes their practice, to some extent anyway. However, at some point we all do need to improve or to maintain our technique and knowledge. I have developed a routine of practicing most days which involves going over scales and modes in different positions, some work on speed and accuracy in playing as well as improvising over different chord sequences and so on. That’s for the more jazz and rock side of my playing. I also practice classical guitar for a while every day, mainly to keep up some reasonable level of technique. I’m even learning the piano, mainly for composition purposes, so this is another thing I keep up.

This is all good discipline but sometimes I wonder how much it really helps me to improve. No doubt it does but by how much? This is very hard to measure. As you can probably tell I do tend to diversify but I can’t justify giving up on any of those ‘branches’ because each part has a function within the whole. I suppose that’s the risk with having an eclectic approach to music: the danger of spreading yourself too thinly and not concentrating enough on any one thing to master it completely. I did go through a phase earlier in my life when I was playing a lot of classical guitar, doing concerts and so on and that was pretty satisfying. But I wanted to explore other things so that took away from the concentration on that which was fine because I never wanted to be purely a classical guitarist.

The guitarists I admire the most are people like Pat Metheny or Steve Howe, both of whom in their own different ways have developed a strong but fairly open approach to the guitar. In Steve Howe’s case especially I always liked how he used all sorts of different stringed instruments in his work, particularly with Yes. I read an interview with Pat Metheny recently in which he said that he never has time to practice as such. Well I suppose at his advanced stage there’s no real need anymore..

Photo of Steve Howe by jomelia [CC BY-SA (]

I’d be interested in hearing from any other musicians and what your relationship is to practicing your instrument. So do leave a comment if this is of interest to you.


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