Today, I want to share with you a really quick but incredibly powerful practice tip that will make learning anything on the guitar faster, more enjoyable, and far less frustrating for you. This is something I call the “5 X Rule” and it is something every single one of my students knows inside out. You should too.
The “5 x Rule” will potentially make learning and practising the guitar far more fun and enjoyable than you may have ever found it.
If you have ever made error after error when practising something on the guitar, and got frustrated, possibly to the point you wanted to throw the guitar out of the window, (which we have all felt!) then you will find this rule a massive help.
Guitar Practice Done The Efficient Way…
The 5 X Rule is simply this:
“Slow down and practice whatever it is you are learning to the point you can play it perfectly well 5 times in a row. If you make ANY error you must start again.”
The ability to play something five times in a row perfectly requires you to really concentrate hard, especially if it is a tough piece or a piece that is completely alien or new to you. This might make it tricky at first if you have never practised like this as you will need to really focus on the piece and all of the details. Although it requires more concentration the benefits are huge.
It is so simple but let me explain why it is so powerful.
The ability to play the piece without mistakes at least five times in a row has three big benefits:
- Trains you to play and learn in an error-free environment helping you to make it a habit to play without mistakes
- Builds your confidence and self-belief in your abilities
- Eradicates a lot of needless frustration when learning and actually makes practising fun!
Breathe, Slow It Down, Use Good Technique, And Aim For Perfection
You will need to take some nice deep breathes before you start and continue to breathe while playing.
As well as that you will almost certainly have to slow the piece down. If you don’t slow it down, yes, you might play it perfectly well 2 or even 3 times but it’s unlikely you will play it five times in a row perfectly.
Therefore, it’s essential to slow it down and let your brain process the movements and focus on doing them correctly.
When I say aim for perfection, I mean it. Play the piece with ZERO errors.
If there is a slight buzz on a note, start again, if there is a wrong string plucked, start again, if the rhythm goes skewed, start again. You get the idea.
You will have to focus on your technique harder than before. When a student makes similar mistakes time and again it is often due to something lacking in their technique. This method helps to spot this.
Remember, you are aiming to erase all mistakes so be honest with yourself, make sure everything is clear and accurate from the first run through. If not, slow down, concentrate hard, breathe deeply and start again.
If you play the first one accurately, repeat until you can play it 5 times in a row.
Once you can, move on to something else that is a little easier and then later on in the practice session, or the next day, repeat it a little bit faster and aim for five more perfect runs through.
You Can And Should Use The “5 X Rule” For Anything
You can use this method for ANYTHING.
It can be for:
- whole songs
- sections of songs
- a specific chord change in a song
- a riff
- half a riff you find tricky
- a lick
- a fragment of a lick
- a scale
- a new chord
- ….and literally anything
You can break down a song into tiny sections and use this method for each section. It doesn’t have to be used for whole pieces.
In fact, I often recommend you break everything up into very small parts, and perfect each part and THEN put it all together. Too many guitarists try to master the whole piece and forget to work on the bits within the piece that hold them back.
Anyway, remember to use the “5 X Rule” for anything remotely tricky, whole parts or little parts and your playing will flourish.
How I Apply This Rule With New Students To Make Their Guitar Journey Easier
Whenever I get a new student in who has played before but is new to my teachings, I start off by seeing how they go about their guitar practice… To do this, I basically watch how they practice a piece they already know and make a mental note of the number of errors they make and how often they have to start again (which is often a lot).
I always take into account any nerves but after politely teaching them this rule they often stun themselves by playing the piece perfectly well 5 times a row.
Sometimes they don’t and this is usually due to them adjusting to this rule or because there is a technical issue that we need to fix. This method helps me to spot any subtle technical issues holding the student back.
Also, when using this method, the student is often extra focused, so if there is a technical issue, they can often spot it for themselves which is great and shows their self-awareness is good and/or is getting better. If you don’t have a teacher and rely on yourself to spot any technical issues, you’ll find this method useful.
Video recordings are brilliant for spotting errors too, by the way, and you can use the 5 x rule with video recordings to really zone in on the errors that hold you back.
By forcing yourself to use this rule for your guitar practice, even for just one piece each day, you will make the rule a habit and your playing will be more enjoyable, more error-free and successful for it.
Try it, and leave a comment below letting me know what you think and how the “5 X Rule” works for you.
Frank Tarnopol says
Hi Dan, I love the 5x rule. I used to use it when I taught programming and math. I have been working on Sounds of Silence. Three days and most of it sounds good. Is there tab available. I am having trouble with “the vision.”
Are there move songs and lessons available from you?