Don’t try to be too perfect | Practice vs Performance | Guitar Couch Lessons

Don’t try to be too perfect | Practice vs Performance

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We all want to be perfect on the guitar. Nobody wants to feel that the time and effort that we put into our practice sessions is wasted by not being able to play the songs correctly and without any mistakes. Striving for perfection is a glorious thing, we want to do things in the “right way”, but abusing this approach can lead to frustration and actually it can possibly hijack your guitar playing progress.

Here is a typical scenario (from my experience): a student comes for a lesson and tries to show me the song that he or she has learned. They play the first few chords, something goes wrong with the strumming or chord transition, and they instantly stop and then start all over again. It’s almost like they’re not allowed to make even the smallest mistake, as it will ‘devalue’ all of the efforts put into learning the tune. Yet there are hundreds of videos on YouTube where the best of the best make mistakes during a live performance.

Mistakes in your playing are and will always be present, this is just the nature of the instrument. We are fighting against this lump of wood with metal wires on it – a lot of things can go wrong! A beginner may have some issues with chord changes, an intermediate player with certain scales and an advanced musician with articulation techniques, but it is how you deal with these moments of guitar flops that is important. You need to recognise the difference between the learning (practice) phase and a performance.

When you’re learning a tune on the guitar, you should pay attention to all of the details. You have to make sure that you work on the difficult areas of the song (have a look at my How To Play section for some song tutorials – https://www.guitarcouch…) and isolate them. You put all of this effort in because you are in the learning phase and the main goal here is to improve some aspects of your guitar technique by working on your weak spots. At this stage, this is where it is ok for you to stop and go back to fix the mistakes.

But performance is a different animal. The moment you play a song for someone, you are performing. You will still make some mistakes, but unlike during the learning phase, you just can't stop because you were late with the A minor chord. You will need to ignore or correct your mistakes on the fly, and this is something that you need to (paradoxically) practice 🙂

You should, of course, acknowledge that you made a mistake, but keep going, don’t stop and start again. The moment you stop and try to start from the beginning, you disturb the flow of the song, and listeners don’t like it. It’s almost like you’re only performing the first few bars of the song, but what about the rest of the song? You don’t even give yourself a chance to get to the middle of the song, not to mention the whole tune.

Try to do a ‘live’ practice session. Pick up the guitar, tune it up and play one song from the beginning till the end. Don’t stop, ignore the mistakes, just keep playing. This is a great way to develop a more natural / performance-orientated approach to your guitar playing. That way, you will learn how to get yourself out of the mistakes by not being disturbed by them, and it will also give you more confidence to perform in front of others knowing that it is ok not to be perfect all the time.

Let me know your thoughts. Are you guilty of trying to be perfect all the time? I definitely was, but not anymore. Playing with others is a great way of improving in the performance area – there is nothing worse than an angry vocalist saying – please stop stopping! 🙂

Darius | Guitar Couch Lessons

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