After analysing an interview with the amazing Josh Smith, I’ve extracted six essential elements from his approach to practicing guitar. In this article, I’ll delve into these elements, explore why they work, and provide advice on how to utilise these principles in your own practice sessions.
1. Be Excited
Interestingly, Josh doesn’t follow a set practice routine. He says,
“I don’t ever have a set routine.”
Instead, he emphasises the importance of excitement in choosing what to practice, stating,
“Something will just get me excited… Normally it’s only something that popped into my head, something that made me excited.”
Why it works: Being excited helps maintain interest and motivation, leading to more effective practice sessions. When you’re excited about what you’re learning, you’re more likely to commit to it and push through challenges.
How to apply it: Choose musical materials that genuinely get your juices flowing. Make the feeling of excitement a priority when deciding what to practice next.
2. Be Consistent
Josh highlights the need to play every day, even if it’s just for a short period, saying,
“I just make sure I play every day now. That’s the most important thing, to play every day, which is never a problem. I’m always finding time to play.”
Why it works: Consistency aids in building muscle memory and reinforcing learned techniques. Practicing regularly helps to develop skills, making it easier to tackle new challenges and progress.
How to apply it: Schedule dedicated practice time daily, even if it’s just a few minutes. Aim for a consistent routine, whether it’s first thing in the morning, during a lunch break, or in the evening. Hold yourself accountable and make practicing a priority. Leave your guitar out and ready to play in the room where you spend most time. Make it easy to pick up and play, even if just for a few minutes.
3. Narrow Your Focus
Josh likes to hone in on learning specific elements, rather than trying to learn everything at once. He explains,
“I’m driven by wanting to learn very specific things.”
Why it works: A narrow focus allows for deeper understanding and faster improvement in specific areas. It helps you avoid spreading yourself too thin and ensures you make meaningful progress in the areas you’re most passionate about.
How to apply it: Choose only one or two techniques or concepts to work on at a time, and give them your full attention during practice sessions.
4. Break Out of Ruts
When stuck in a rut, Josh turns to learning new songs to rekindle his passion and inspiration. He says,
“I learn songs that help me get out of a rut… I find that that helps me get inspired… Just the joy of learning a song that you probably love already. And then there’s always going to be one little thing (that gets me inspired).”
Why it works: Learning new, inspiring songs that really excite you is just fun. Not only that, there are always new, fresh, and exciting things to learn and discover in songs.
How to apply it: Create a spark list of all the songs that really excite and inspire you. When you’re stuck in a rut, choose a song, jump in, and start learning to reinvigorate your practice sessions. Dive deep, and learn the thing behind the thing.
5. Embrace Mistakes and Focus on Growth
Josh emphasises the importance of not being afraid of making mistakes. He shares,
“So when I learn a new idea, I’ll immediately go on stage if I have a gig that night and play it 100 times and probably fail and make some mistakes, but that way I’ll quickly get it under my fingers.”
“I’m more interested in pushing myself all the time to learn new things.”
Why it works: Mistakes are a natural part of learning. The quicker you accept and learn from mistakes, the quicker you’ll progress. Embracing mistakes encourages a willingness to take on new challenges (both in the practice room and on stage), which can lead to faster growth and skill development.
How to apply it: Don’t shy away from challenging techniques or songs; use mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. When you make mistakes, analyze what went wrong and work on improving those areas.
6. Fully Commit
Josh’s dedication to his craft is undeniable. He says,
“Like, you guys, I’m totally obsessed with this. Other than my family, this is every minute of my life.”
Why it works: Truly committing to your instrument inspires a dedication to your craft, which in turn manifests continuous improvement and enjoyment.
How to apply it: To truly commit, you’ve got to love it. To help you love it, stay inspired and stay excited.
To sum up, focus on what excites and inspires you, be consistent in your practice, narrow your focus, break out of ruts with new songs, embrace mistakes as opportunities for growth, and fully commit by learning to love the process.