Periodized Practice

In my own playing I've decided it's time to focus on technique again, which I haven't really given much attention to in the last 12 months. Here's my plan for the next year.

We all know that trying to work on dozens of things at a time on guitar leads to nothing getting really nailed. We also know that working on just one thing until we master it can be frustrating, as we hit plateaus and other aspects of our playing get neglected. Very often this method, although fruitful at first, leads to frustration in the long run. I think this is especially true of technical work.

One solution is to use what I call "periodized practice", which essentially means focussing mainly on one thing at any one time, but changin your focus each month to cover different topics. Each month consists of the following "periods":

  1. An intense "learning" period of 2-4 days in which the material is woodshedded exclusively for several hours per day
  2. A longer "beat the clock" period for 1-3 weeks in which I try to beat my metronome mark with the material each day and also work on other things
  3. If time is left, a "review" period in which I work on a mixture of things I've worked on previously.

I've decided to apply this approach to the next 12 months, looking to improve some specific technical things that are already key parts of my playing. My plan is as follows:

October 2012 Three-note (1-2-3) sequence
November 2012 Broken thirds
December 2012 Sweep picked triads ("C" shape)
January 2013 Four-note (1-2-3-4) sequence
February 2013 Sweep picked triads ("A" shape)
March 2013 Broken fourths
April 2013 Scalar tapping I
May 2013 Zigzag (1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2) sequence
June 2013 Sweep picked triads ("E" shape)
July 2013 Scalar tapping II
August 2013 Sequenced triads through a scale
September 2013 Pattern 53 from here

These are all things I've worked on before but that I feel are rusty or I'd like to improve. Obviously they're not the only things I'll be working on this year; it's more of a commitment to spend a few days a month intensively working on a specific technical topic and then to try to make noticeable progress with it over the rest of the month.

In terms of practicalities, I'll probably pick a different scale & key combination for each month and stick to it through the month to maximise focus on technical development; when reviewing and putting the work into practice I will, of course, be mixing those things up. The metronome will, of course, feature very heavily, although I find it can sometimes be beneficial to practice without it as well.

I'll probably post monthly updates talking about how it's going, with details of what each month's topic is about.