We Play How We Practice

My son, who is a fine young golfer, and I were taking in a golf video together recently. The coach on the screen was promising a lower score when something he said caught me.

“We play how we practice.”

I rushed to write it down in my guitar practice notebook. (Don’t have a practice book? I recommend having one. Anything will do.) And since then I’ve been thinking about how it applies to guitar.

Last year about this time I was really into the song “Hero” by Family of the Year. It is all finger picking, and the tempo and pattern were a good challenge for me. I really wanted to figure it out so I could play it myself at an up and coming performance.  With all that concentrated practice, I got pretty good at playing it. After the performance, I moved on to another song and just kinda let finger picking drop off.

Well recently I was watching the movie, Boyhood and the song, “Hero” is part of the soundtrack. It reminded me, “Geez, I forgot how much I like that song. I think I will pick it up and play it again.” I expected it would come up like a song on a jukebox. Not so much. My fingers were rusty to that particular pattern. I had no stamina for the quick tempo. I needed to go back and listen to the song to remember the sequence. I hadn’t been practicing finger picking and therefore I couldn’t play it very well.

BINGO. We play how we practice.

Of course, we can’t schedule in every single song and skill we’ve ever learned into our practice regimen. We’d be there for hours a day. Sounds nice, but impractical. If you’re like every other guitarist on the planet, you sometimes don’t know what to practice I encourage you to explore the relationship between what you practice and what you play.