Kaizen and the Art of Guitar Practice

KAIZENKaizen is a Japanese word that means “constant and never-ending improvement”.

Kaizen aims to make small and continuous improvements in all areas of life.

The power of Kaizen is that these small and constant improvements add up exponentially over time.

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to apply this simple but powerful technique to improve your guitar playing.

The Power of  Micro-Goals

Let’s say you want to improve your performance of a new scale fingering.

If you are currently able to play the scale as eighth notes at 60 beats per minute, your Kaizen goal may be to play the scale at 61 beats per minute.  If you’re a more advanced player, you might want to move up to 62 bpm, or maybe 63 bpm, etc.

As you can see, the goal is not to jump from 60 beats per minute to 200.  The focus is on small consistent improvement.

“Small” is going to be relative your skill level.  If you’re already able to play the scale at 140 beats per minute, then this is where you would start.   You might be able to move up the metronome in increments of 5 or even 10 bpms at a time. Again, your level of skill will be the determining factor.

Now let’s say that you wanted to work on improving your performance of a song.

Let’s say that you have already learned the song and just want to improve your performance of it.  A great way to measure your performance improvements is to record yourself playing the song.  This means that you record yourself performing the song after you have warmed-up.

Next, continue to practice the song with a focus on the aspect of the song you want to improve.  For example you may decide that you need to focus on technique, phrasing, or rhythm.   Just before the end of your practice session, record yourself again performing the song.  Now you can compare your two performances.  Make sure that as you listen to the recording you listen for improvement in the specific aspect you have applied Kaizen to.

Now depending on your skill level, it might be tricky for you to actually hear improvements in your playing by the end of your practice session.  If this is the case, make your next recording after a couple of practice sessions, or maybe at the end of the week.

This short tutorial showed you the basics of how to apply Kaizen to your guitar playing.

Experiment with this.

Come up with your own Kaizen goals.

Think of creative ways you can apply this to your practice sessions.  And of course, have lots of fun with this technique.

Here’s something you can do to remember to apply Kaizen to your practice session.  All you need is a pen and 3 Post-it Notes®.

On the 3 Post-it Notes®, write the word “Kaizen”.  Now place one Post-it Note® on your bathroom mirror.  Place one on your guitar case and place the third on your music stand, book or amp.  The idea here is that every time you go to practice you will see the reminders and think Kaizen.

Remember that Kaizen is all about taking tiny little baby steps and improving with each step. Focus on getting a little better every time you play guitar and over the course a few months you will notice substantial improvements in your guitar playing.


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