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September 2013 Article - The Lab & the Factory

Monday, September 23, 2013

Practicing guitar has two sides - the lab and the factory. Both are equally important and needed for effective learning. In his recent live lesson, the great Fingerstyle guitarist Adam Rafferty shared this wonderful insight from Seth Godin and applied it to guitar learning. (And I’ve thrown in my thoughts as well!)

When you practice, certain guitar learning tasks fall into either of these two categories and each has a different approach.

1) Your Practice Room as a Laboratory.

When you’re in the practice room “laboratory”, you’re curious - constantly experimenting and trying new things. The goal is finding something new musically - a new way to play a chord, or approach a solo. That knowledge could open up a whole new aspect of your musical understanding. In the guitar-learning laboratory you challenge yourself mentally to see the guitar fretboard in ever-new ways.

Failure in the guitar-learning laboratory is an understood and expected part of the process. But you’re less concerned with specific mistakes and more focused on finding the one idea or approach that works.

Imagination, creativity and just allowing time to musically explore on your instrument are all part of the laboratory which makes for an effective practice time.

2) Your Practice Room as a Factory. 

Another equally important part of practicing is approaching your practice room as a factory - a place where you get the work that needs to get done accomplished, preferably in a way that is more efficient, faster, and effective than you did previously. Here, in the factory, skills are honed, polished and perfected.

In the factory, it’s not about creativity, it’s about reliability and productivity. You want your technical skills to be sharper and faster. Like an athlete going to the gym each day, a musician does certain tasks each day to keep their skills up, mentally and physically. It’s the grinding out of what needs to be done today so that tomorrow we can play more accurately and efficiently than we did today.

Playing scales, working with a metronome, strumming chords and all skill-based learning falls in the “factory” category. Working in the guitar-learning factory is generally more focused on physical aspects of playing, on your technique, than on the musical aspects. Without careful, diligent attention to technique, you’ll never be able to get your musical ideas out from your fingers.

Your practice life needs both sides - the laboratory and the factory. Allow time for both as you enter your practice room. Keep up the great work! - Steve

If you would like to read Seth Godin’s original blog post on this subject you can see it here… http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/06/the-lab-or-the-factory.html
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