Time is on a Musician’s Side

Use Your Practice Time Wisely

Use Your Practice Time Wisely

While most students of the banjo, guitar or mandolin recognize that learning an instrument will take both time and patience, there are a few who feel that they should progress further in a shorter period of time.  A student will say to me, “I have been playing for a year already and I’m just not getting better”.  To this student, a year seems like a long time.  Quite the contrary, a year of studying and practicing music (including taking music lessons), is an insignificant period of time.  In fact, a serious student can expect to play for many years before he or she becomes more comfortable with playing an instrument. It may take six or seven years before you actually feel you are reaching a level where playing songs is appealing to both you and an audience.

Practice Pays Dividends

When a students exhibits their frustration in this manner, a teacher such as myself, has to ask a few questions.  First, how much time are you practicing?  Second, are you practicing every day?  If you step away from your instrument for a week, it will show in your playing.  Similarly, if you practice a song for a period of time and then let that song sit for weeks, you will quickly forget the song.  You see, practicing a banjo, guitar, mandolin or any other instrument requires dedication and commitment.  Otherwise, the limited time you invest in practicing your instrument will not yield the results that you may expect.  I am sure you have heard the saying “You get what you pay for.” In musical terms, the saying is “You get out of your instrument what you put into it.”

So the next time you sit down to practice your banjo, guitar or mandolin, use your time wisely.  Do the hard work.  Play some scales. Practice a strumming technique. Play some rolls or work on your tremolo or vamping technique.  Take a small break but make sure you return and practice some more.  Practice a minimum of an hour a day and if you can help it, don’t go a day without practicing.  Remember ………

Time is on a musician’s side.


About fretmentor

Born in Detroit, Michigan, David F. Jakubiak has been involved in music since the age of 7, beginning as a clarinet player and then at 9 turning his attention to stringed instruments. He earned trophies in group talent competitions while a student at the University of Michigan. The instructor earned a BA degree in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Public Administration at the University of Kansas. At college, he also studied classical music and music history. His passion is teaching music and in performing as a musician. In addition to on-stage performances, David has played in various venues from outdoor festivals to small nightclubs. He plays, performs and teaches various styles of music, including rock, pop, blues, jazz, classical, country and bluegrass styles. He performs and teaches acoustic and electric guitar, five-string banjo, and mandolin. His styles range from Scruggs, melodic, Reno and old-time style on banjo, to finger-style and flat-picking technique on guitar, to various styles of mandolin. For over 45 years, Mr. Jakubiak has taught all age groups, taking a personal interest in each student to ensure that they receive the attention and lesson plans that meet their needs and interests. His lessons and instructional materials place a strong emphasis on the practical use or music theory to ensure that the student understands the instrument and learns how to improvise to develop their own style. Mr Jakubiak teaches group and studio classes, webcam lessons over the internet, and individual private lessons to students of various ages. He has compiled and produced eight instructional books on CD as well as numerous instrumental arrangements. David has written for Banjo Newsletter, a monthly publication for the banjo enthusiast and has published an article in Issue #37 of the Fretboard Journal. He is the founder of www.fretmentor.com. To contact David Jakubiak, please feel free to e-mail him at david AT fretmentor.com (substitute the @ sign for the word AT)
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15 Responses to Time is on a Musician’s Side

  1. avatar Tigerpaws says:

    And I agree with you….the problem is that most of us that are starting out now have already lived over half our lifetime…..we NEED to squeeze it in quickly! 🙂

  2. avatar espian says:

    So true. I wish that I was more disciplined. The more time invested definitely pays off. I recognize it every wednesday night. “Yep, I should have practiced that one more” or “wow, Im glad I practiced that song”. Either way it’s up to us.

  3. avatar lspencerini says:

    I think my problem is being impatient. I do want to be better than I am and at the same time I do not see how I am progressing. My wife tries to tell me. Fretmentor tries to tell me. And sometimes I see the progress, but other times I get down on myself because I expect to be professional-sounding in less than six months of playing. When I give my self a break and practice and have fun, I do a lot better.

  4. avatar Screendude says:

    My issue is that I started out practicing songs but I couldn’t play them correctly because I didn’t know the proper techniques. So I started taking private lessons to learn technique, however, with every lesson I get a new technique to practice. My learning curve is steep because I too, am in that 3rd quarter of life. Now that I’m working on technique, I also have to make time for the songs but it’s tough because it’s a slow process and until I master the techniques I still don’t play the songs correctly. Catch 22 I guess. But I’m not giving up.

  5. avatar Bobby Clyde Hickox says:

    This a great article Fretmentor, frustration is a constant obsticle
    for me, I thought I was alone. Thanks

  6. avatar Dave Lamont says:

    You definitely get out of it what you put in. Music is so vast, that you can study many facets of it, and never really become bored. There are many firsts and achievements along the way. It certainly is one of life’s more rewarding disciplines.

  7. avatar Brilind says:

    Practice without purpose is just noodeling around.
    Fun but not too useful.

  8. avatar George Parham says:

    I am beginning to notice an improvment in my right hand technique which, has been my main problem in picking. I found that playing or practicing with extreme vigor and wearing out my picking hand/ arm to the point of muscle burn before I quit for the night has developed the right muscles for strength and memory. I am beginning to not have to think about where or what my pick is doing now. ‘Still making mistakes but, loess often. I used to get frustrated. Now I get even.

  9. avatar G. E. Marrs says:

    I really like the message here. Time IS on your side as a musician. But I have a particular perception as to why which depicts something I disagree with in this post.

    “So the next time you sit down to practice your banjo, guitar or mandolin, use your time wisely. Do the hard work.”

    The reason people like lspencerini find themselves impatient is because things like this seem to always be depicted as “hard work”.. ew! Why should practicing and learning be compared to work at all?

    “You get out of your instrument what you put into it.”

    This is exactly right. Therefore, if you simply put “work”into your instrument, then this is pretty much all you’re going to get out of it.

    What if you replaced “work” and instead put “inner musical fascination” into it? What if you put your emotional expression into it? What if you put the thought of one day creating your own songs unique only to you apart from the rest of the world which contains your own special personal musical dna?

    Creating that takes very precious time to craft. If you have some thought in your head that its “work” that you have to get down as soon as you can, you’ll be creating a stick figure on paper instead of that beautiful porcelain statue that you originally dreamed about.

    Look inside yourself to know that learning to play isn’t just learning an instrument. It’s learning to develop a mental facet of expressing yourself in a way that no other method can. “Work” can never put a candle to that.

  10. avatar Andy Baumann says:

    I am definitely one of the frustrated ones. A year IS a long time and I’m always thinking “I should be better than this after a year’s worth of effort.” The problem is that you never really notice your own small incremental improvements. This was proven to me a couple of weeks ago when I played for someone during the holiday break. I hadn’t seen that same person since March, and they were surprised at how far I had come. So, all I can say is keep plugging away at it. I can’t wait until they hear me next year.

  11. avatar John Kino says:

    I learned fly-away on the old version of it, but I find it tough to get accustomed to playing it the new way on tablerture. In midway on the new version, I find myself going back to the old way of playing it.

  12. avatar John Kino says:

    I try to get in a couple of hours each day, but it is tough. I try to concentrate on the songs that I cannot play. It seems like I must play the song many, many times befor I can start to memorize the song. Patience, Patience, Patience. Some times I run out of patience.

  13. avatar John Kino says:

    I am trying to learn the lead in “Under the Double Eagle” it sure is a long song and an awful lot to remember. I try to learn it by practicing a few measures at a time. It will take me a month or so to remember it, or like Uwe said, play it 4000 times and you will own it.

  14. avatar fretmentor says:

    G E –

    Your point is well taken. The blog never intended practicing to sound like a four letter word “WORK”. Yet, if you work hard at anything you do, whether it is a baseball player working hard to get to the major leagues or a musician working hard to get to the next level of their play, the results can prove to be worth the effort. That was the point of this article. The word “work” should not be taken so literally. Thanks for your input.

  15. avatar Amy says:

    I’m currently enrolled in school and study groups help, I’m gonna see if anyone in the class I’m taking with you want to practice…if anyone in Jupiter wants to help a beginner understand music theory please reply! P.S. I love this app and all your blogs!

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