Practice The Minimum

I heard a story a while back about the great jazz pianist Bill Evans. As the story goes, when asked what he practiced, Evans responded "I practice the minimum."

A strange answer...probably not at all what the asker was expecting.

What Bill Evans was getting at was depth of practice over breadth of practice.

It's a familiar story. A guitarist eager to learn grabs every instructional book/dvd/magazine/lesson he can get his hands on. He heads to the practice room ready to take on this mountain of knowledge. He works hard, often putting in hours of practice per day.

Before long the enthusiasm wears off. Overwhelm sets in. With all the techniques, styles, tunes, theory, etc. to learn, how can one possibly make the time?

Here's the secret that Bill Evans understood. When you go to practice, focus on just one thing - and practice it deeply. So much more progress is made by deeply focusing on one area than briefly skimming the surface of dozens of areas.

Start with just 5 minute increments. Pick an area of study that you know you would benefit from (your vibrato, for instance) and commit 5 minutes of uniterrupted, focused practice time to it. Forget about all the other things you "should be practicing". Imagine that your vibrato is the only aspect of your playing that matters. Five minutes. You can do it.

If you make a habit of practicing this way, you'll notice that it will be easier to stay focused for longer periods of time. You'll also notice real progress in your playing. This is a practice technique that produces mastery.

So get to it! Start practicing the minimum!

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