Musicians often spend hours practicing completely wrong. We practice as if we're fusion jazz session players, when our paid gigs are rocking out simple pop songs live. Here's how to bring your practicing into alignment:
1. Pretend you're trying to impress someone.
To avoid getting sloppy, I often try to imagine that one of my former teachers is looking over my shoulder, which makes me focus more on my technique. Better yet, have a musically-inclined friend or spouse keep an ear tuned to your practice. The pressure will simulate a live audience, and help you improve.
2. Make your practicing match your live sets.
Most bands take 5-10 minute breaks every hour, and I like to keep myself on that schedule whenI'm practicing. This will train you to play for longer stints, and help keep your focus during live shows.
3. Play the songs you already know.
It's fine to have a lot of songs in a semi-finished state, but be sure to play a core group of your best material that you've already worked up. This will keep your older stuff practiced, and keeps you used to playing a song straight through without stopping.
Dont zone out when you practice- actively pay attention to your phrasing, dynamics, and rhythm. Learning to listen to yourself is the first step to musicality.
5. Record yourself.
This is the single best way to simulate the pressure and adrenaline rush of performing live. Use your iPhone to record audio, or better yet, post a video to YouTube to showcase your skills.
6. Play in your style.
If you're a rock player, focus on being the best rock player you can be. While it's cool to experiment with Afro-Cuban rhythms, make sure to practice in moderation so you have time to practice your main style.
7. Find guys and jam.
There's just no substitute for playing with others. Find guys to jam with, and do it as much as you can.