by Jamie Andreas
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One of the aspects of a properly balanced practice
approach that is very often
overlooked is REVIEW. The common tendency of most
students is to focus on "new"
things to play, even if last month's or last year's
"new" thing was never properly learned.
There are a few reasons for this:
Reasons We Don't Review:
1.New is always exciting. There is a certain rush of
exhilaration as we begin a new
song or piece, especially if we really like it.
Some of us are just addicted to that
2.Taking on something new gives us the feeling that
we are "moving along". Well, I
guess we are, but where we're going isn't going
to be any better than the place
we just left!
3.Our teacher may want us to "move along" to the
next page in the book, or a new
song. This is because he/she is afraid we will
think we are not learning if we stay to
long on one thing, or go back to something we had
previously worked on.
4.Going back and reviewing something makes us feel
bad about ourselves as guitar
players, since we know what is going to happen if
we go back and try to get that
solo, or that piece, to sound better than it did
last time we played it. We won't be
able to! We will hit all the same problem spots,
and they will still be problems, and
the music will sound the same as it did the last
time we battled with it. We will fight
the same battles, and we will lose again. That is
because we are fighting them the
same way! Because we never learned how to
practice, WE DON'T KNOW HOW
TO IMPROVE THINGS! (As I began to learn how to
practice, how to take
something and make it better, reviewing took on a
very enjoyable, even exciting
aspect. Since I was getting better all the time, I
couldn't wait to see how much
improvement I could create on a piece I really
loved, and had some little, maybe
big problems, with.)
You must examine yourself, and see where you stand
with all of this.
Ask yourself these
1.Do I regularly review songs, pieces, solos, and
2.Do I see the results of regular review bearing
fruit for me in the form of an ever
growing repertoire (group of pieces we have
mastered and can play)?
3.Is this repertoire getting "better" all the time,
or is it plagued with weak spots?
We are, of course, looking for YES answers here. If
you come up with "No's" ,
"Maybe's", or "Um, could you re-phrase the question",
then you need to take serious
heed of what I am saying.
Now of course, we must take on
new material, and review old material on a regular basis. Let's look at
some of the reasons why this is so.
Reasons We Should Review: Long Range/Short Range
Building of Skills
Often, when I give a student something new, I tell
them "it is not possible for you at the
present level of your development, to learn this piece
(or song) well enough to be able to
play it the way it is supposed to be played. Consider
this piece like a tree you are
planting. It will take a while, maybe a year or two,
to grow fully. Each time you come back
to work on this again, each time you review it, it
will grow taller and stronger. Right now,
we are just going to "plant the seed".
We then work on the piece or song or even exercise,
until a "first goal" is reached. A
"first goal" is the level of proficiency that I feel
the student is capable of achieving at their
present level of development. Of course, this means
the level they can bring the music to
IF they do their absolute best in terms of practicing
it. This may take two weeks, it may
take two months, it may even take 4 to 6 months before
I feel the student has taken it as
far as they can.
At this point, they can stop "working on" the music,
and just "play it". It can become part
of their repertoire even if it hasn't been brought up
to performance level. Playing it will
keep it in their fingers, and in a general way, it may
even improve just by playing it, but
usually whatever technical problems still remain WILL
Whether the music is still played, or put aside, the
point is that at some later time that
music must be re-visited. Those technical problems
that were beyond reach must be
gone back to later on, maybe six months later, maybe a
year. IF THE STUDENT HAS
BEEN DEVELOPING PROPERLY THEY WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE
FURTHER, BEYOND THEIR FIRST GOAL.
It is this process, repeated over and over, that
builds a solid repertoire, and a solid
A good example is a student of mine who was new to
fingerpicking. We worked on Dust
in the Wind for about 6 months, and I mean the whole
song as a guitar solo, chord
melody arrangement, including transcribing the violin
solo for guitar. He learned it pretty
well, but it broke down in a few places due to left
hand problems and the fact that he
wasn't properly trained in classical right hand
technique ( we had been doing mostly
electric and jazz up till then).
We then spent about a year doing classical studies,
and recently, I told him to review
Dust in the Wind. What a difference! He now can play
it very fluently, and it is extremely
satisfying for both of us to see the progress that was
made. This is the way it should be
for all of us.
Review with a "New You"
Robert Louis Stevenson said "A man who holds the same
views at forty that he did at
twenty, is a man who has been stupefied for twenty
years!" I say, a person who plays a
piece of music at the same level now as he did a year
ago, does not know how to
practice and does not know how to create vertical
growth in their playing ability.
At any given point, there should be a "new you", when
it comes to life, or guitar. When
this "new, improved you" reviews an "old piece of
music", it should become a "new,
improved, piece of music" once again.
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