How to improve/learn a new piece

Practising Tips

Practising Tips

ALWAYS practise from memory. Your first step is to memorise the 3 or 4 notes that you are learning, so that you can watch and help your hands to play them.

Step 1 As best you can, decide on a fingering for both left and right hands.  DO NOT waste time practising something without making good fingering choices – especially for the right hand, which is often ignored!



a) Watch your hand.  Keep your thumb relaxed, it should not be digging a hole in the back of the guitar! Is your hand position correct? It should be parallel to the guitar (scale position) or turning out to facilitate 2 or more notes on one fret. Make sure it is in the best position for that group. Then practise very, very slowly –  help the fingers to play the notes efficiently, with small relaxed movements.

b) Next step play the notes with your eyes closed. If you cant do this – repeat step a) trying to memorise the ‘feel’ of playing them. Try again and repeat the ‘feel’ of the notes with your eyes closed.

c) Play the notes watching the music – this is harder because your kinaesthetic ability is reduced when your eyes are busy looking at the notes. EVERY sense is reduced when you are ‘busy looking’, so you won’t be able to ‘hear’ yourself as well either. Just keep repeating steps abc until you have it at a very slow speed!


Repeat steps abc this time watching the right hand. If it is too difficult for your left hand to cope when focussing on the right hand – then practise the right hand separately first on open strings. Use small relaxed movements – listen to your one, I often find that a problem  quickly disappears if I do this. When the right hand can ‘play the notes’ more easily, put the two hands together again – playing very very slowly!

Step 4: Apply this method continuously to each small group of notes throughout the piece. Or to just the odd groups that need it.

TIP 1: When you play the group through with your eyes on the music make sure you simply ‘track’ the notes with your eyes – in other words do not let your brain think it has to ‘work out’ the notes again! You are simply following the notes with your eyes whilst you play the notes that you have already memorised.

TIP 2:  You are simply memorising each small group of notes to help practise and improve them – this is the first step to memorising the whole piece. BUT you need to do this even if you do not intend to play the piece from memory, or feel that you cannot memorise the whole piece.

TIP 3: How many times did I say ‘practise slowly’ in this blog? Practising slowly means that you are relaxed and in control – if you are not – try going slower! (See previous article) If you always play at a controlled speed that ‘easy speed’ naturally speeds up. Never force it – you will just eliminate all the hard work you have done!