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The Purpose of Guitar Practice and Performance

Well that sounds easy enough. Pick up the guitar and practice.. Well. what do you practice?

In my view there – and I admit I say this as a performer – are two types of guitar practice. On the one hand there is the work to get stuff “under the fingers”. That is to say, to memorise and execute the left-hand fingering and right-hand picking. On the other hand, there is the practice of performance. You might say that if you are not playing in public then “practice for performance” is irrelevant to you. That’s not true, in my opinion: what is the point in learning to play something if not to play it to someone? You might reply that you play it to, and for, yourself. For your own pleasure. So you practice and “get it under your fingers” so as to please your own ears. Well, if you succeed and you become virtuosic in your playing you will have endless hours in the echo chamber of your virtuosity. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe that’s the pinnacle and height of the musical spirit: to practice and play the best you can for its own sake. With no audience or applause or criticism. Practice the scales and arpeggios and all the other stuff so you execute a performance with nobody – except yourself – listening.

Every time I play anything on the guitar, it’s not a just a sound. It’s a potential. It’s a preparation for the next sound. And I take into account how it might – one day – be heard by somebody else. Indeed it’s my intention that it is heard by somebody else.

By all means get your stuff under you fingers – but share with others that you did it. And be proud.

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