Hello, this week’s harmonica lesson is all about how to practice effectively.
You may have found that you have got into the habit of repeating the same exercises over and over and don’t feel that you are actually progressing at all. If this is the case, then you should probably look at how you are practicing.
All too often, we equate practice with repetition. We’ve heard that “practice makes perfect”. However, “only perfect practice makes perfect”.
So let’s dive straight into it.
1) Record Yourself
The quickest way to improve your playing is to record yourself while you are practicing..
I use the “voice memo” app on my iPhone. This isn’t for anyone else to listen to. Just yourself.
You will hear things that you would miss when you’re just listening to yourself practicing. You can then make the changes necessary to improve your playing.
Be very specific. Don’t just listen back to the recording and say “my playing sucks”. Instead, I want you to find exactly what isn’t working in what you are playing. Then, focus on what you need to do to improve that.
If, there are lots of things that you feel could be improved, just make a note of 1 or 2 and focus on them. Remember, great playing comes from strong foundations built out of lots of tiny building blocks.
2) Practice Slowly
If you can play something quickly, can you play it well and quickly? Are you stumbling over certain sections? If yes, you need to practice it slower.
Use a metronome; play your licks slowly in time with a beat. If you get it right 3 times in a row without any stumbling or rough bits then you can speed it up a little bit. I suggest speeding up in 5 BPM (beats per minute) increments.
Don’t push too far in one go. From my experience people tend to make a lot of improvement and then start getting worse. So, make some improvement and feel comfortable then take a break.
Pick up the same lick tomorrow and see if you’re still comfortable playing at the speed you accomplished today. If not, take it down a few notches and then build it back up.
3) Practice In Context
If you are learning a new lick, don’t forget that it needs to fit into a musical context. So, once you can technically play the lick you need to try playing it in different keys, at different speeds and with different styles of backing track.
The reason that you need to practice like this is so that when you get to a jam session and the guitarist doesn’t play exactly the right rhythm for you, you don’t get thrown. Be flexible.
Put on different backing tracks and see how you can play that lick in different styles.
Finally, practice putting this amazing new lick together with other licks you play. See what you need to do to make them flow together well.
4) Practice On Different Keys
Each different key responds differently. So, you should try your awesome new lick on different keys of harmonica.
Higher key harmonicas are easier to play fast so you should practice fast licks on lower key harmonicas. This will pay dividends. You will become much stronger and more confident.
5) Regular Practice
It seems obvious but the best way to make sure that you improve is to practice regularly. Ideally every day, but if you can’t manage that, try 4 times a week. Otherwise, the improvement won’t happen.
You don’t need to practice for a very long time. 10 minutes every day will lead to a much greater improvement than one big marathon practice every once in awhile.