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5 Practice Tips from Grammy Winning Artists

We've all faced it. There comes a time in everyone's musical journey when you hit a plateau - you just can't seem to get better! We talked with five Grammy® Award winning ArtistWorks online faculty and master musicians Bryan Sutton, Jason Vieaux, Mike Marshall, Eric Marienthal, and Peter Erskine to get their best advice for overcoming music roadblocks.

Peter Erskine: Step Away for Inspiration

According to jazz drum legend Peter Erskine there are two types of “roadblocks" players experience. “One stems from lack of focus or lack of inspiration.”

Another form of blockage stems from players being confronted with a new challenge that causes them to revert back to old playing habits. As Peter explains, “With music we often find ourselves relying too much on the vices or tricks that have worked for us in the past. So, when we are confronted with a challenge that requires us to break out of those patterns, we find ourselves circling.” 

He explains that the best way to overcome either of these problems is to step away from what you're doing—maybe go for a walk or read a book. But when you come back, "immediately dig into the aspect of your playing that is causing you the most frustration."

Bryan Sutton: Key Quality Principles of Playing 

Flatpick guitar master Bryan Sutton maintains that whether you're a beginner or a seasoned player, improvement depends on the same basic principles. “Aim for a fundamental level of quality that is defined through these components: Rhythm (meaning groove and timing), tone (meaning the voice of the instrument), how you connect one note to the next, and being able to convey an overarching expressive quality. All these components come together to define quality playing.” 

Next time you're practicing, try taking a page from Bryan’s book, slow down and make sure you're making every note count! 

Use code BETTER80 now and save $80 on any 12 month plan, or try out some free music lessons with any of our master musicians and learn from the best!

Eric Marienthal: Learn to Recognize Bad Habits 

Jazz saxophone legend Eric Marienthal explains that there are often small inconsistencies in our playing that are at the root of what's holding us back as musicians “Sometimes you're so used to playing the way you do, you're actually ingraining bad habits,” he shares. “Maybe it’s a breathing issue, or an intonation issue. But if that’s never brought to your attention, it’ll never start to sound better.” 

That's why Eric particularly encourages students to take advantage of ArtistWorks’ exciting Video Exchange Learning platform, that allows participants to submit videos for review.

On this platform, Eric reviews each submission and records a video response, offering specific guidance. He compares it to being at a football game where, “I can slow down and rewind the problem areas and recognize things I wouldn’t be able to see in real time. The Video Exchange allows me to help students take their playing to the next level.”

Jason Vieaux: Practice With Purpose

For classical guitar virtuoso Jason Vieaux the secret to playing better is to set specific goals and get some guidance. “A talented player can get very far by putting in the hours, but most will improve quicker if they practice with purpose,” says Vieaux, who has played with over 100 different orchestras around the world. “You can play for 10 hours a day, but if you aren’t focused on specific skills, you may not get better. Finding a good teacher is important because they will help you set realistic goals, which will lead to better technique."

Mike Marshall: Break Bad Habits

Bluegrass mandolin master Mike Marshall shares the common thread he’s observed playing alongside great musicians. “When I think about the great players that I've worked with, all of them have this in common,” Mike explains. “When they’re having trouble with progressing in their playing, they go back to the fundamentals of their instrument.” 

Whether it be familiar picking patterns or the way we hold our instruments, Marshall explains that shortcomings in these areas can have a huge impact on our playing. “When we get stuck on something hard, often it's because we're not paying attention to the basics.”  

Want to get started on overcoming the roadblock on your musical journey with our online music lessons? Our Students are improving every day, and we’re growing with them! With more videos, more learning tools and course options then ever before, there’s enough here to take you anywhere you want to go. 

Want to learn more about what these artists have to say about overcoming roadblocks in your musical journey? Check out our music podcasts and hear their full conversations!

Read More:
Win a 1-hour Live Lesson with the Artist of Your Choice
Peter Erskine: Creative Practicing with Drum Fills
Saxophone Exercise: Play for Control, Not Speed




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