With the last few months being a blur, it's almost time to get back in the swing of things. If you're like most of us, getting back into playing shape may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Below are three easily applied tips for getting back up to speed after being away from your instrument for a prolonged period...
Tip 1 - START WITH THE RIGHT MINDSET
If someone is used to practicing for hours on end, jumping back into that schedule after a prolonged downtime could not only lead to overwhelm but also cause injuries. Taking into account the physical and mental aspects of long practice sessions, a good rule of thumb is starting with short, frequent practice and training sessions throughout the day whenever possible. Also, it’s a good idea to perform a brief warmup before each session. Practicing four times a day for 15 minutes (5 minutes for warming up and 10 minutes for training) will be much more productive than practicing one time a day for 60 minutes. Once acclimated, going back to longer sessions should be more comfortable with much less chance of injury. However, after realizing how productive these short, focused “micro” sessions can be you may not want to go back:-)
Tip 2 - DOWN-TUNE YOUR INSTRUMENT
Playing a fretted instrument has one distinct advantage when returning from time off. We can tune down. I know, it sounds too easy or may not make sense at first. However, loosening the tension on the strings makes it much easier to fret notes and provides less resistance to your picking hand. Plus, things that sometimes are challenging, like bending strings on a guitar as a quick example, become much more comfortable, allowing the tendons and joints to rebuild their strength and flexibility gradually.
Most stringed instruments can benefit from this tip, but it will depend on each instrument how far it can be down-tuned. Sticking with a whole-step to start should make quite a difference. If things feel too slack, try down-tuning each string a half-step. A good rule of thumb would be to leave the instrument down-tuned four to seven days before tuning back up. This amount of time allows the tendons and joints to get used to working again with lessened tension.
Also, if time allows, it’s a good idea to use an incremental approach. For instance, practice with the instrument tuned down a whole-step for up to a week. Then practice with the instrument tuned down a half-step for up to a week. Finally, tune up to standard pitch for your instrument and reap the benefits of gradual resistance training:-)
Bonus Tip - LEVERAGED ACQUISITION OF NEW SKILLS
As a guitarist, playing at slower tempos has never really come naturally to me. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. However, with absolute certainty, I can say the things I learned as a young player at slower tempos are the things I still remember and can easily play. After many years of playing and teaching, it’s become clear that the mental engagement required to learn as a new player, plus the focus on physically playing new items build a much deeper level of overall mastery.
That’s one of the silver linings in being away from an instrument for a prolonged period. We get to approach things with a much deeper level of focus and engagement, meaning anything we learn during a re-acclimation period will stick for many years to come. What better time to relearn forgotten scales or add wish list playing techniques to the tool belt!
May these tips find you healthy and ready to kick butt on your instrument!
Until next time, stay focused, stay consistent, and expect the best from yourself. :-)
About the author: Ty Morgan is a professional guitarist in the Phoenix, Arizona area. He also owns and operates one of the premier guitar education academies in the area. If you’re searching for guitar lessons in Mesa, AZ and ready to discover the science of learning and mastering guitar be sure to contact Ty!
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