Practice and Self Control

In the following article we will discuss a few different components which should make up any practice session. You should be able to be flexible with these ideas and not be static with the way you practice. For example self-analysis can be done at any moment in time and not nessesarily right after you practice.


To start off I recommend doing something that you are comfortable with and doesn't push you that hard in any aspect. Over time your warm-up will evolve and over time things that you did during your main practice time will become warm-up.

For example, if you're comfortable improvising single notes over a backing track that you find on youtube, then that could be your warmup. If you're not at that level yet, then your warmup might be playing notes and calling out their anchor intervals at the same time making sure that you are in control of the notes that you are playing. If you're more advanced then you could take a jazz standard and improvise chords over it as to accompany someone.

The main purpose of the warm-up period is that it lets you get ready for doing stuff which is more difficult, and is the part of the practice which should feel more enjoyable/fun than the other section, since there is less load.


Now that you've done something that you have already warmed up, then the next step is to do work which will improve your current skills. The main way to do that is to push yourself on the edge of your ability/comfort zone.

An example of what this might look like is increasing the tempo at which you practice chord improvisation over jazz standards. If you can currently improvise chords over a jazz standard at 65BPM, then your improvement phase might be to be able to improvise chords over that standard at 70BPM.

Most of the time the improvement phase should make you feel a little bit uncomfortable, like you're trying to catch up to someone and their just out of reach or you're just able to keep up with them.


After you're done with the improvement phase there might have been things that you notice about the way that you play, for example maybe you noticed that when you're improvising chords over a tune and you turn the tempo up too much that you start relying on memorized chord shapes rather than thinking about and constructing chords as you go.

If you've noticed something like this then you should think about how you can counteract these issues, for example if we're dealing with the issue above, then one way we might proceed is to not increase tempos too fast or to a level where we have to rely on memorized things since we can't play fast enough.

This is the most important part about your practice since it will allow you to move forward more efficiently and not practice things which aren't moving us towards our goal.

One of the most important discoveries I made was after I realized that the speed at which I could construct chords was way too slow and that without understanding and internalizing horizontal movement on the fretboard that I would never be able to build chords fast enough to accompany others.


Having self-control is one of the most important parts of practice, it's what will allow you to continually make improvements and not allow yourself to plateau.

For example, if you play with backing tracks which aren't very harmonically complex, eg they don't have many chord changes and you can get away with improvising using one or two ai collections, then it might be easy to feel like you're doing well, but then you might jam with someone on a song which is more complex and realize that you weren't ready.

What this means is that if you become complacent with the skills that you might not be able to improve and become the best player you can be. To counteract this we should always be aware of our faults, biases and things that we know we should work on.

Being able to have a high level of self-control will also give you more motivation as it will let you achieve your goals faster and then be able to enjoy the rewards those bring which causes a positive feedback cycle.