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How to Practice Guitar Safely!

Is guitar playing bad for your health? Not really but you can end up doing yourself some damage through practicing and playing with some bad habbits. I hope to give you a few tips that I've learned (some through the hard way) to make sure that you don't end up getting yourself into self influcted trouble with your playing!

In my experience as a guitar play and guitar teacher, the majority of problems seem to occur because people are unaware of how much tension that they have in their bodies as they play. I've known people who have quite literally had to stop playing guitar because they have had such poor guitar playing habbits that they have done permenant damage to their wrists so it's an issue very close to my heart. I did myself some serious damage many years back by hammering a full day of practice when my playing was not ready for it. The result was that I could not play a guitar for 2 weeks after which as a guitar teacher was a big deal!

A lot of this comes from the expectation of the person playing. For those learning something the temptation is to learn how to play things now, play them quicker, push harder on the strings rather than take the time to work on technique, grip the pick tighter rather than relaxing. What this boils down to is how to develop your guitar playing technique. A common misconception is that having good technique is about playing fast. Whilst being able to play quickly can be a direct result of having good trechnique it's not the full picture. Here's an excerpt from an interview with guitar affictionado Guthrie Govan about his take on technique.

" is meant to be fun, and that’s important. Sitting in a room with a metronome, punishing yourself, playing arpeggios like they’re Hail Marys – that’s not going to make you love the instrument, or yourself. Some of that’s good, if the music you hear in your head requires that you have great technique, you have to work at great technique. But try to enjoy it. Remember that great technique is often about trying to make something feel easy. If you play something slowly lots of times, and pretend it’s easy, you get to the point where you can play it effortlessly for hours on end without tiring yourself out. And then one day, if you need to do it a little quicker, you find that you can. If something feels easy, that means you’re doing it right.
The problem with the race against the metronome I think is that everyone tenses up, because they think they’re doing something difficult. That’s how you learn bad habits, and give yourself tendonitis and all of that bad stuff. So take it easy, try and make it sound good – sound is really important, and do something with your playing. Do some demos, write music, join a band, join five bands… have fun, sound good, be in time – obvious things."

Let me give you the important bit again.

"Remember that great technique is often about trying to make something feel easy."

There is another quote that I'll paraphrase (because I don't know who it was originally by but needless to say it wasn't me). "You can already play everything that you need to be able to play, just not quick enough". Whilst this is perhaps not exactly true, it does make a point. Whilst practice makes perfect, only the right kind of practice will really give you the result that you want. The key to it is to practice slowly, eliminate tension, make what you are playing feel easy by giving yourself enough time to think about it and when you can do it consistently well, then think about speed. I mentioned in another article about a book called 'The Talent Code'. Go and check this out if you haven't done already as it goes into depth about this in a far better way than I could possible articulate.

The final thought that I want to leave you with is that these things take time. It happens when it happens so it's about patience, persistence and most importantly about having a good time. Otherwise what's the point?

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