The 5 Minute Miracle – Guitar Practice Efficiency Secrets

Here’s a simple but incredibly effective strategy that I’ve used over the years when I have been busy, but I still need to make time for my music.

Check out the podcast below where I share it with you:

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Greg O’Rourke: Hi guys. Welcome to My name’s Greg O’Rourke and it’s great to have you listening along today. This website’s all about the rapid path to mastering guitar and to build your skills to get you to the next level in your playing. So visit my website for a whole bunch of free lessons and courses and everything you need for a step-by-step instruction on building your skills with guitar and especially jazz guitar.

So here’s a simple but incredibly effective strategy that I’ve used over the years when I have been busy, but I still need to make time for my music. I don’t think you need to assume that to still make progress in guitar, you need to practise for hours and hours every day. Obviously, if you can that’s fantastic, but sometimes you can make excellent progress, simply by using what I call the Five-Minute Miracle.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about this really. All I do is grab my mobile phone, which has a countdown timer on it, and I set the timer for five minutes. And then I just grab my guitar, I don’t even bother to tune it. If it’s reasonably in tune, that’s great. And I just get straight into the next thing on my list that I need to develop.

So for example, if I’m trying to learn a new jazz standard, I might spend a bit of time learning one or two phrases from the melody. If I’m interested in learning how to solo over a particular tune, this is something I often do, I’ll just put on one chord from the progression and jam over it for a while. Building things up like this step-by-step, can be very effective because what it does is it presents your mind with a problem in a very constrained way. So for example, soloing over a G13 chord in the progression. And then, you can just focus on that single chord. And then maybe the next day, you might revisit that for say, 30 seconds, and then go to the next chord in the progression. And then on the third day, you might practise those two chords together. And I find a looper pedal is incredibly useful for this kind of technique.

So what am I talking about here? Let’s give a real world example. I’ve just set the timer for five minutes. I’ve grabbed my guitar. I don’t really care if it’s perfectly in tune or not, and I’ll just lay down quick pattern like this on my looper. Here we go, it’s a nice G13 chord. And so, this is one of the chords out of Take the A Train or something like that. If I’m looking at that standard and I see this chord, I’m just going to practise messing around over G13. Okay, here we go.

Okay, so can you hear how… what’s great about this practise is, it’s instantly satisfying, and also it’s a great step-by-step building block for say, focusing on a jazz standard, because rather than getting overwhelmed with all the different chords in one practise session, you just focus on one chord. And even if you only have time for one chord in one of those five minute miracle sessions, then gradually over the course of the week, you can actually cover quite a lot of different chords and combinations of them. So for example, in the next practise that I’ll do the next day for five minutes, I might combine that with another chord and loop that around. And so, in this kind of very embryonic step-by-step way, you’ll actually be very surprised on how fast you can develop your skills over a standard.

And what’s interesting is that it’s actually very highly leveraged because what you’re doing is, you’re presenting your mind the problem, and then you’re going away from it and you’re going to sleep and then you coming back, consolidating it quickly, and then adding another chunk. And then, if that’s all the time you have, then you go to sleep the next night. And then by the power of leveraging your subconscious, which is something I’ve talked about a lot in my courses and programmes over the years, it kind of seemingly without effort, you can really develop your playing. And it’s crazy how you think, man, I only spent five minutes on that, but I’ll come back the next day and it’s a lot easier and everything’s making sense. That’s your subconscious working for you when you’re not on the guitar.

This is the thing sometimes I find… I’m sure you’ve all had this feeling, when you’re trying to solve a difficult problem, in anything. For example, on my website I had a bit of a coding issue, and I was scratching my head, trying to peel my brain, how am I going to solve this problem? And I would have sat there for like an hour, just not really getting anywhere. Then I go to sleep on it and I come back, and all of a sudden the solution presents itself within a few minutes. A lot of creative types and scientists have commented on this, the power of the subconscious in solving problems when you’re away from the problem.

And so being very consistent but diligent, even with a very small five minute practise, even that can really help you develop your playing. And you start to realise, maybe I don’t need to spend as much time as I was thinking, when you do have more time to practise. So of course, if you have a couple of hours a day to practise and that’s fantastic. Of course, you’ll likely make more progress, but you have to be careful that you are using the leverage of your subconscious. So you need to be very planned with your practise. You need to make sure that you present your mind with a new problem and that the next day, even if you are practising a lot, you need to consolidate it and review that and then add another bit on step-by-step.

And so, this is why I find just moving through maybe a standard, one phrase at a time, trying to memorise one phrase the first day and then consolidating that the next day. Then adding another phrase on the second day and so forth. And moving slowly but steadily, sequentially through material is an excellent way to build progress. And not feeling like you need to get all this right all at once. And this is why a lot of people feel like they’re a “deer in the headlights” when they’re soloing. Because they’re trying to work out how to solo over every chord in a single session, and they get completely overwhelmed because it’s just too much information for the brain to handle. The brain works best when it’s focused on just small pieces of information and then develops those and then links them together.

And so, anything is easy if you can break it down into its constituent parts rather than feeling like this whole massive difficulty in front of you. Just pick things apart and focus on one little element at a time. And this is why this five minute miracle technique is something that I’ve always fallen back on in busy times.

But you can use the principles of this technique, even if you have a longer practise sessions, to present the problem, review the second day and consolidate, add one more element on that next session, rinse and repeat through the week. And then make sure that you get a really good night’s sleep and take care of yourself. It said that there’s three ways in which the mind most effectively consolidates information.

The first is sleep, the second is exercise, and the third is socialisation. Now obviously, that third one might be a little bit difficult at the moment, but we can definitely do the first two. We can do get a good sleep and that’s really important for your wellbeing right now anyway, outside of music. You just need to make sure that you get a good night’s sleep. It’s really good for everything. And then the second one is exercise. Again, that’s really important, but the brain actually makes all the connections in those kinds of categories of activity, ironically, when you’re not even on the instrument or when you’re not studying. It’s those times when you’re doing something like sleep or exercise, when the brain starts to knit everything together.

Actually, there’s a really good course that I want you guys to check out if you haven’t already. I think it’s a free course. It’s on Coursera, at least it used to be free. So check it out. It’s called Learning How to Learn, and they talk about the efficient processes for learning. And it’s really, really interesting, and I’ve based a lot of my recent study and practise on the principles that I learned about in that course. So make sure that you check it out.

Okay, so in the spirit of the topic today, this is a very short and sweet podcast, but we did a focus on something really important, how to highly leverage even small practise sessions on your guitar to get some strong results in your playing, even if you’re busy with other things.

So my name’s Greg O’Rourke. Really hope you enjoyed this today. Please get in touch with me and let me know what you think about this. You can leave a comment on my website. Make sure that you give this podcast a five star rating and a nice comment, if you enjoyed today’s show and you’re interested in me doing some more of these shows. Yeah, I’m happy to keep doing these, but I need your support. So make sure you give me a good rating on iTunes please. That would be wonderful. And yeah, in terms of what’s going on at the moment in FretDojo, there’s some great courses that you can get into.

And also, I’m offering the 30 Day Jazz Guitar Challenge, which is one of my most popular programmes, and you can now enrol on it any time. So make sure that you visit my website. It’s on the front page at the moment, at the time of this recording for info, if you’re interested in having a nice structured programme for developing jazz guitar skills, if you’re looking for something to do at the moment that’s a wholesome, healthy activity. And something where you can develop a hobby and something you’re interested in, then this course might be a good fit for you.

Okay, guys, well, hope you have a great day today. Stay safe, stay calm and keep on jazzin’! I’ll talk to you soon.

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