How do you practice a song? To most musicians the answer is very simple, play it over and over again until it sounds good! Well that might be part of the answer, but it’s not good enough for me and I think that this article from PR-USA about Tom Hess’s approach may just back me up on this.
I understand that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses (my weakness is obviously the English language!) and that our brains are wired completely different from each other. We all see and perceive things in an asymmetrically fashion, so it makes sense that we work on things the way we see them. This is a how I set up my practice time.
First off, I divide the song that I’m working on completely apart, section by section. After doing so I put it all down in TAB form. I use Microsoft Word, just to keep it simple. If the piece is very difficult, I would video tape myself playing it. I do this because over the years I have written down songs on paper only to return to them, many years later, not really knowing/understanding how I played it to begin with. This next step I repeat no matter how simple or complex it might be.
Here is when I totally slow down the section I’m on almost to half time (play it at the half speed that it was intended to be played or listen to). This allows me to pay attention to the chords, that I am playing on my right hand, and lets me examine HOW I place my fingers on to the fretboard. You have to make your hands flow perfectly in sync with one another! Look for ways to make then flow effortlessly.
Take a look at how your hand moves from different angles, like from above or below. I realize at first glance this might seem like a odd thing to do because you may think that you know how it goes, but believe me, there is always ways of improving your skill level. The process that you use here is of the utmost importance! If you can play a song (or part of one) at a slow speed while milking it for all it’s worth, later on when you perform it at it’s intended speed, you will sound like a rock god/goddess. This is when the listener notices your confidence levels.
I tend to drive other musicians up the wall at first, in my own way(s) of arriving at how to play a certain song. When I was young and playing with other guys in bands, I felt that they thought that I was an idiot or just a slow kid. Then years later on, they would tell me that it actually is a good way to practice.
So how do you practice a song? Is it similar to my technique or do you go off in a different direction?
Keep on Jammin’