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Finger Independence – Part 1

The Art of Practicing for Enjoyment and Growth – Part 1

By Ty Morgan


Let’s be honest, sometimes practicing a skill or trying to master skills we already have can really suck! Choosing to take on learning a new skill is very courageous on its own, but sticking with it until you actually master that particular skill is where the rubber meets the road.

In this series of articles we’ll be discussing a few practice suggestions that, if applied, will multiply how effective your practice sessions are, as well as increase your overall enjoyment of the learning process.


The basic elements for practicing any skill can be broken down into the following general categories:

·        Mental

The perspective we take on what practice is and the expectations we feel practice should deliver.

·        Physical

Developing physical habits and muscle memory through repetition and review

·        Combination of Mental and Physical

Combining the mental and physical preparation elements of practicing to create a faster assimilation of the skills practiced

In this article we will be focusing on the mental element of practicing and discuss the physical and combination of the mental and physical elements in future articles.

Key Components to Mental Practice

  • Separate the results from the practicing process. A toddler just learning to walk is a great example of separating the results from the practicing process. They’re not thinking about one day running a marathon. They are very intensely focusing on things like picking up one foot and putting it down in front of the other. This intense focus helps the toddler master basic skills in relatively short periods of time. The really great thing is the toddler is enjoying the process of learning. The key becomes harnessing this mindset as we practice. We’ll look specific ways to do this in the application section below.
  • Remove expectation from the practicing process. While we all practice with some sort of goal in mind, it’s those very goals that can become a huge stumbling block to the mental aspect of our practice sessions. We lose sight of the basic skills we should be focusing our attention on and very quickly start losing any benefit or progress towards mastery. We practice with the goal perfection in mind and become frustrated as we realize we aren’t their yet.
  • Intentionally focus your whole mind just the one aspect of the skill you are practicing. After removing the expectation of perfection and separating the results from the practicing process it’s time to pick one thing to focus on and practice slowly, correctly and as intentionally as possible for short periods of time. This develops the habit of performing the skills correctly and by focusing your attention on that skill you are developing the proper habits must faster.
  • Just have fun! We should all strive to be like the toddler mentioned earlier. They approach big tasks like learning to walk with a sense of joy and wonder. The hours they spend learning something as simple as picking up their foot and moving it forward even an inch are usually spent with laughs and smiles – not grimaces and groans. They aren’t wrapped up in what they’ll be doing 5 years, 5 months or even 5 minutes from now. They are in the moment and having a blast!


In order to master anything, the basics must first be determined and developed individually. When approaching practice it’s important we set our minds up for success so the elements that follow enable us to master the skill. Here are a few things to keep in mind concerning the mental element of practicing:

  • Perspective – removing goals and achievement as the focus and trusting that you are moving closer to mastery. Practice should never be frustrating. If so, your perspective has slipped. Be aware of any self-talk you practice and if you hear it, stop and get focused back in the moment.
  • Product – goals are great and necessary, but can also be crippling. Know what your end result is; pick one aspect or skill needed to reach that goal and throw way the idea of perfection before you even start practicing.
  • Process – intense awareness and focus on the skill you are practicing is the most effective way to remove mental baggage and begin making huge strides toward your overall goal.
  • Positivity – Always have fun! To really love practicing a skill one must remove the end result from thought and really focus on the process of practice.

One last word of encouragement to tide you over until next time . . .

Studies have shown athletes who repeat a skill 60 times a day for 21 days develop the permanent habit of performing that skill. These athletes probably didn’t start out the 21 days doing the skill perfectly or even at a fast pace. They were absorbed in repeating the skill to the best of their ability at a tempo they could easily handle. Then in just 3 weeks most were able to perform these skills like they were second nature.

As you approach learning and practicing a new skill know you are just 21 days away from doing that skill very, very well. Remind yourself of this fact when you lose your train of thought and get frustrated. Stick with it for 21 days and the limits are endless!


The Practicing Mind – Thomas M. Sterner

The inner Game of Music – Barry Green and W. Timothy Gallwey

About the Author

Ty Morgan is a musician, songwriter and guitar teacher located just outside of Phoenix in Mesa, AZ. His passion is to pass the torch of creating music on to future generations, as well as enhance the lives of others through music. Visit his artist site www.tymorgan.com and his teaching site at www.eastmesaguitarlessons.com for more information about lessons and musician coaching/mentoring sessions.

Are You Using These Strategies to Build Rock Solid Timing?

by Ty Morgan

“Timing is everything” is an old saying from who knows where. But, is it really true? If so, what does this particular saying have to do with music anyway?

Timing is one of the most overlooked aspects of musicianship and has been for many generations. On the flip-side, timing the first thing a non-musician notices about a performance! To be more accurate, an audience will feel a lack of timing long before they hear it and tune the performance out from the get-go! NOT GOOD for both the audience and band!

While we, as musicians, can’t be held accountable for anyone else’s timing; we can make sure we do everything in our power keep our timing is as tight as possible.

Here is the first of 3 effective strategies you can use to develop a more solid sense of time.

Metronome Work:

Since timing is all about feeling the pulse of the music, you have to first develop that pulse.

I know, I know . . . I hear the groans already. I’m sure some of you are saying, “Not another guy telling me to practice with a metronome!” While I do feel strongly about practicing with a metronome, that’s not necessarily the method I’ll be discussing here.

The first metronome exercise is as simple as it gets. Just turn an electronic metronome of some kind on while you perform other activities like working, exercising, showering, brushing your teeth, etc. As silly as this may sound, with just a few minutes a day you’ll soon start to feel a pulse in everything you do. There’s nothing magical about the metronome or what you do while you listen to it. It’s all about becoming aware of your internal pulse and how it interacts with an outside pulse – like music. After a while, you’ll be able to accurately tell the difference between, say 83 bpm (beats-per-minute) and 82 bpm. Not too shabby for a passive exercise!

The second metronome exercise requires a little more interaction, but not much. Just grab a notebook, or book you don’t mind beating up a bit, and a pencil with an eraser. Fire up the metronome and set it at a starting tempo of 100 bpm. Now just tap the pencil on the notebook once for each click of the metronome. No biggie, right? Our goal for this exercise is to make the metronome click disappear. Yes, you heard me correctly, disappear. As your timing improves, you’ll discover that the sound of the pencil eraser hitting the notebook will “bury” the click of the metronome making the metronome sound as if it has shut off or stopped. This is known as “burying the click” in the studio musician world and is a sure sign that your timing is in sync with the click.

Once you’ve mastered one tap of the pencil per click at 100 bpm, gradually slow down the metronome until you get down around 60 bpm. Slowing down totally goes against the “norm”, I know. But you’ll see what I mean when you try it. As the space in between the clicks increases, your ability to keep the pulse must become sharper to stay in sync.

As you work to master this, feel free to work with different rhythms and feels. For instance, try breaking up the metronome clicks into eighths, triplets, sixteenths, etc. The possibilities are endless and will be covered in a future lesson.

Just a few minutes a day of these two exercises over an extended period of time will help even the most timing challenged musician develop a great internal clock.

In the next article we’ll look at the strategy 2 for building effective timing – “Give me a beat!”

Ty Morgan is a musician, songwriter and guitar teacher located just outside of Phoenix in Mesa, AZ. His passion is to pass the torch of creating music on to future generations, as well as enhance the lives of others through music. Visit his artist site www.tymorgan.com and his teaching site atwww.eastmesaguitarlessons.com for more information.

The Process of Learning a New Song

by Ty Morgan

In the course of any musician’s career, it’s not uncommon to learn hundreds of songs, if not more. Many of these songs will need to be learned by ear which is another topic for another article. But many songs will be learned by using chord charts and lead sheets which is what we will be discussing here.

It can be overwhelming trying to navigate the tremendous amount of information available to today’s musician. In this article, a proven process of learning new songs will be defined adding one more option to your toolset. Let’s get started.

Needed Materials:

  • Chord chart or lead sheet
  • Track of song being learned
  • Pencil
  • Guitar

Phase 1: (Spend Time with the Chord Chart)

  • Look through the chart or lead sheet and note any new or unfamiliar chords
  • Look up and add diagrams of the chords you found in step 1 above to the chart. This will come in very handy at rehearsals.
  • Memorize and practice these unfamiliar chords until they become second nature.
  • Practice any unfamiliar chord changes or progressions to get them under your fingers

Phase 2: (Spend Time with the Track)

  • Listen to the track and follow along on the chord chart (no playing)
  • Listen for and mark the following on the chart in pencil:
    • Parts specific to you: riffs, solos, places to add parts, etc.
    • Guitar sounds: clean, distorted, acoustic, spanky telecaster, etc.
    • Kind of rhythms used: driving eighths, held chords, hits, etc.
    • Any special dynamics: soft, builds, raging, etc.

Phase 3: (Song Specifics)

  • Listen again and determine the roadmap of song sections: Intro, Verses, Chorus, Bridge, solos, etc.
  • Does the chart have any oddities like missing sections when compared to the track? If so, bring them to whoever provided the chart for clarification.

Phase 4: (Start Playing)

  • Strum along w/ track while following along on the chart.
    • Just general strumming to get a feel for the overall song groove and chord progression flow
  • Try to keep your eyes off your hands and on the chart.

Phase 5: (Learn Specific Parts)

  • Try and learn as much as possible by ear. This really helps you memorize the song as well as develops your ear to a high level
  • Locate tabs, youtube links, etc. for parts that weren’t able to be learned by ear
  • Work on each part; solo, rhythm, etc., until it is mastered
  • Learn each section of the song individually to stay flexible in band situations. For instance, learn just the verse section. Then learn just the chorus section. Continue on to any additional sections such as bridges, pre-choruses etc. Again this really helps you to internalize the song and remain flexible during a performance in case things get switched up on the fly!

Phase 6: (Putting It Together)

  • Play along w/ track utilizing the specific parts you’ve learned until they feel good.
  • Play along w/ track without using the chart.
  • Play without the track using a drum machine or metronome using the chart.
  • Play without the track using a drum machine or metronome without using the chart

While all this may sound like common sense and very simple, don’t let the simplicity fool you. I floundered for many, many years being underprepared and having to rely on aids such as charts during gigs. This not only affected my confidence as a musician, which in turn affected my playing and ability to effectively interpret the music. It also greatly affected the audience as I couldn’t connect with them musically or personally with my head buried in a music stand!

By following these easy steps and truly owning the songs you play, you’ll not only blossom as a musician you’ll create music that truly moves and inspires people.

Ty Morgan is a musician, songwriter, and guitar mentor and coach located just outside of Phoenix in Mesa, AZ. His passion is to pass the torch of creating music on to future generations, as well as enhance the lives of others through music. Visit his guitar school’s site at www.eastmesaguitarlessons.com for more information.

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