Discipline Is OVERRATED: How To Practice Guitar Without SUFFERING

Why The Most Disciplined Guitarists Are Actually Practicing The Wrong Way

Tommaso Zillio

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practice trick guitar

what is the best way to practice guitar?

You might think that you should sit down and practice the exact same thing for four straight hours until your hands are about to fall off because hey, no pain no gain, right?

No! This is what happens when we try to see improvement in one practice session rather than trying to see improvement over a long period of time.

Worse than that, if you practice this way, you are actually going to get worse during the practice session… very counterproductive!

While it might seem appealing to practice until your fingers bleed, just like Bryan Adams says he did, this is just going to:

  • Give you diminishing returns,
  • It’s a hit on motivation, so you aren’t going to be consistent with your practice,
  • And perhaps most importantly, it’s going to cost you a lot of money in band-aids!

“But Tommaso, if I don’t sit down and play the same thing for 4 hours straight, how am I supposed to improve on guitar?”

I’m glad you asked, disembodied voice! High-five for having the courage to ask the million-dollar question!

What we want to do is use a simple practice trick that I’ll be sharing in the video linked below, and - fair warning - it is going to feel, in the moment, like you are not making any progress at all.

But you will be more consistent with your practice, your mind will be more engaged, and you will see better results even after a few days. Or hours. Or minutes. YMMV.

So go, stop reading and check out the video below to learn about my “no discipline” trick for practicing guitar.


P.S. If the ‘practice the same thing for 4 hours method’ describes you, then try my trick for a few weeks, and write a comment on the video or write me an email if you noticed a difference in how much you are improving!

When you try this trick out, you might want a few other things to throw into your practice routine. So for that, you should check out this free eBook on making your pentatonic solos sound more professional.

Video Transcription

Hello internet, so nice to see you.

In my position as a teacher, sometimes I find that I give the perfect right answer to some people, and sometimes I find that the answer I give them actually makes them worse.

So I want to make sure that an answer I gave some time ago is not hampering you is not preventing you from becoming better. So let’s see this comment, and I’ll tell you what you need to know.

Dear music theory for guitar, you are a genius. Anybody would love this exercise. That is anybody that would survive the disciplined way of life. It is so effective that when I was halfway through or 60 minutes in, I already felt improvements. Insert tear stains on letter. Sadly, I couldn’t make it on the first day past exercise six. This video was not filmed for the week, with my highest respects, to the demon with fangs, who prowls in the night, student. Insert blood and tear stains.

And when I read this, I just go back and check the video to make sure I actually did say something which I did. But I noticed that it’s not evident to many people. In that video, I said one specific thing that I want to repeat right now. But it doesn’t apply only to this exercise, like there was the exercise on how to learn the notes on the fretboard.

These applies to a number of different things you do on your guitar. And so you want to know it. And the thing I said was this: That you don’t want to practice this exercise for more than five minutes a day. Let me be clear, five minutes a day tops for this exercise.

As you can see in the comment that we just read, the student there was trying to practice all the exercise one after another and she went up to exercise six after 60 minutes in the first day. And let me tell you, I commend her for sheer willpower because I would have given up way sooner than that. Like way, way sooner than that. Okay?

The thing is this guys, if you watching this video right now, if you were a perfect robot an artificial intelligence with infinite willpower, and no, it would never get tired. I’ll tell you just practice this exercise until you learn the notes.

But you’re not. You’re a human. I’m a human. I hope most of the people watching this video are human. Okay. We get tired, we get discouraged. We cannot do the same thing over and over and over and over. Without getting some rest. 60 minutes. Too much. I don’t I don’t think I can practice for 60 minutes. I think I have to rest much, much earlier than that.

Okay, I practice very intensely, like laser focus in 60 minutes, my brain is shot. Okay, so here’s the thing. Don’t overdo it. Okay. There is one thing – you overestimate how much improvement you can get in one session. And so you practice, practice, practice, practice, and then at the end of the session, you’re like, yeah, I haven’t improved that much. Because you’re overestimating that.

But you are also under estimating how much improvement you can get in one month, if you practice something for five minutes, every day. Five minutes every day, sounds like nothing. And when you do it, it also feels like nothing. I mean, it’s like, you start practicing it and before you know the time is over. Okay?

But if you do these consistently every day for a month, whether it’s the note finding exercise, whether it’s a technical thing, whether you’re learning a solo, if you consistently do those five minutes a day, maybe with a rest for the weekend, okay? I’m not saying that you can take your Sunday off, no problem. But you are going to improve way more than you expect.

Okay, why? Because in between the short practice session, your brain is still thinking about all this. You don’t notice. But in the background, your brain is still processing all this. Okay? If you practice 10 minutes, maybe it’s better. But when you start practicing the same thing, 15, 20, 30 minutes a day, you get into diminishing returns, you’re not gonna get much more benefit from that because your brain is saturated.

Okay, after 15 minutes of this exact same thing, your brain cannot learn much more, okay? Your brain needs to rest need to do something different and you need to get this to sleep over it. And then the day after you can learn more. That’s the way we are built.

Okay. And if you want yes, there are a number of study neuroscience and the science of learning experiments etc. That confirm that okay.

We could sit down here we go through all the peer review literature, all the review studies and all this kind of thing and I could convince you but honestly, why? Just try it, you can convince yourself, okay? So here’s the experiment, okay? Do not practice anything for 60 minutes straight.

It’s not going to work you think it is. But if you measure your progress, you’re not going anywhere. Okay? Start, start thinking about your practice and as five minutes, five minutes, five minutes, okay chunks of five minutes and change what you’re doing every five minutes.

So you start, and you do five minutes of the exercise to learn the notes. It’s very short, it’s good to have a timer that rings every five minutes, kind of, you can find, if you go on the internet you have those meditation timers, that ring every set amount of time. Those are great for practicing, okay, or you can find the high interval training timer to do exactly the same thing.

Okay. It rings a five minutes, good. Change exercise. Now I’m going to you’re going to practice scales, okay, scales, most of the time, are boring. Okay, if you play them straight, especially, maybe they’re more interesting to play sequences, but you can practice scales for five minutes, then bing! the timer rings, you do something different.

Now, you can practice your bands. Okay, you can practice. Five minutes, bends are really fatiguing for your hand, but five minutes, you can do it right? Then bing! it rings again now, okay, why don’t I study some chord progressions, and then I get a chord progression.

And the order in which I do those things matters only up to a certain point. And it matters in the opposite way than you think. Meaning I’m not going to go through all the technique at first, then all the theory later, I’m actually going to mix it up as much as I can, when those five minutes end, I want to completely switch gears.

Okay? It may be strange, at the beginning, it may be weird, but the more you switch gear, the better it is for you because your brain now can concentrate on something completely different. And it’s completely fresh on that.

Okay, or your hands. If you were playing the note finding exercise, this is not physically taxing, but it is mentally taxing. If you’re practicing your bends, it is exactly the opposite. They are physically taxing, because you need to put the strength into the bend. But mentally they’re not particularly bad, and then I do something completely different. Okay, that maybe uses different muscles in my hands.

So every five minutes, do something completely different. Okay. But don’t practice the same thing for 60 minutes. Because what’s going to happen every single time is that the day after, you’re not going to practice because it was too much the day before. You’re done with that. You can see it.

If, if I practice a note finding exercise. For 60 minutes in a row, you can be sure for the next month, I’m not gonna see it, okay, so here’s the thing. As much as I would like to claim the title of the demon that prowls in the night, or whatever it was, it was a really cool title. I’m not, I’m a lazy slob.

I’m a lazy guy who cannot concentrate for more than five or 10 minutes, the same thing. And that’s great, because that’s exactly what you want to be to improve as fast as possible.

Sitting down and doing the same thing for hours and hours. It’s counterproductive. Having too much willpower on this. It’s counterproductive. Follow your bliss, guys, okay? You get tired of practicing something, switch, practice something different. And something different. If anything, have a timer that makes you move faster, makes you change what you’re practicing sooner than what you will naturally do.

You guys try this. In a week, you’re gonna see a difference. But hey, it’s the internet, so you never know. Try this for a month, in a month, I can guarantee if you do these regularly, every day, I can guarantee that these will make a massive difference in the way you learn. And you practice. Okay, five minutes, switch. Five minutes, switch.

Okay, try that way less willpower much more fun, faster improvement, less burnout. What’s not to love, okay? Is the point that he doesn’t even feel like practice practicing because you’re changing, changing, changing, changing, hey, i’m having fun. All the time. I’m never bored, it’s a new thing. I’m never bored.

Okay. Make sense? I’m like I should I should have called this video practicing with ADHD or whatever. Makes sense. Try that. Then. If you want help in learning specific thing. You can come to me and learn from my courses. I have a great course on learning scales and modes, called Master the Modes, I have another course that is about learning harmony, chords, chord progression, chord melodies on guitar called Complete Chord Mastery, you can check those two out.

And if you need any help in choosing between them, shoot me an email, don’t write it here, if you want help choosing between the courses because I need to ask you some questions. And we really don’t want that. You don’t want to have this conversation in public, but write me, you’re gonna have this conversation, we’re going to figure out what course works best for you. And if one of them works for you, great. And if none of them works for you, I can recommend other resources or other teachers and people that can help you. Okay, so write me. Let’s figure out what works for you. Let’s learn the system and let’s have fun. Let’s make music.

If you liked this video, smash that like button, click on notification and subscribe. Write a comment. If you have any questions. Write, write in the comment if you have any suggestions, write it in the comment. Okay. I’m about to say write a comment every five minutes. That would be really good for my engagement, but I can see it may not have this kind of time. Okay. And this is Tommaso Zillio for MusicTheoryForGuitar.com, and until next time, enjoy.

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