Barry Green has written has written an excellent book that has helped musicians all around the world. I highlight a handful of helpful nuggets from his book in The Tuned In Musician. For those who may not have picked up either, I thought I would share some of his tips for practicing here today. I will post my next article on using scales for learning new music later this week. So, here are a few practice tips from Barry Green

  • Don’t practice mistakes

The reality is that many of us practice one passage, one scale, or one riff repeatedly until we get it right. Once we get it right, perhaps we play it again correctly once or twice. Green argues that what we have just done is taught ourselves to play it wrong—perhaps up to ninety percent of the time![1]

  • Realize that Unconscious Mistakes Don’t Count

The idea here is that when we focus specifically on one component of the music, like the melody for example, we are not focused on the other components (articulation, tempo, etc.). This is a simple concept, but an important one. The bottom line is that it limits the mistakes we will remember and hopefully repeat.

“Whatever you are practicing consciously is what your memory will retain.”[2] So if you sit down to work your scales, the first point of focus should be the scale itself (the notes), not the rhythm, tone, articulation, etc. These are all wonderful and important components of the music, we can all agree I am sure. Once you have learned the scale, not the wrong notes, and you have learned to play it correctly more often than incorrectly—or, even better—every time, then you are ready to move on to another area of focus.   

  • Learn First, Then Practice What You Learned

Again, Green is excellent at bringing out what should be some obvious points of truth for us all to begin from, but they still need to be said. I wouldn’t want anyone who hasn’t read his book to miss out.

“Learning implies study,”[3] he chimes, which we know is true. How often do we sit down with our instrument really just to fumble through something or become familiar with it, to learn? I know I’m guilty of this. The point Green makes is simple, we should study it first. We can do this through a number of methods, but he reminds us to listen, study the music or score itself mentally, or even play through it. If we choose to play through it, we should be careful to be intentional about what we are doing. “You can play the piece very slowly yourself with the sole purpose of learning the sound, line, rhythm, or harmony—not to master the piece or play it perfectly.”[4] This is an excellent practical application towards familiarity, which we need so much to have speakability.


[1] Green, 1376-84

[2] Ibid., 1393-1401

[3] Green, 1401-10.

[4] Ibid. 1401-10.

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