TV and Practice

old-television-clip-artI was at a festival recently where we had a small Q&A with the students and participants on various topics on anything and everything related to life with the guitar. Naturally the topic of practicing came up, as it seems to be a curious topic for everyone. We all want to find out how the next player practices; what is it they do that makes them so good. After the regular questions of how long each of us practices and what we practice, etc… the conversation got even more candid and the topic of practicing in front of the TV came up. If you ask any teacher, their first response will be never to practice with the TV on, or with any other distractions because it keeps you from concentrating on the task at hand and having a productive session. And I have to completely agree with that, even though I am guilty of the infraction myself. During my undergraduate I was always surprised to see one or two guitarists practicing in the dormitory lobby, while watching what’s on TV. I could never understand how they could accomplish anything if their attention was divided between two things; or maybe not even divided, but completely absent from the practice.

As a good student, I always practiced without any distractions, but recently I have been guilty of practicing in front of my computer or TV with some sort of movie or show playing in the background. The volume is usually on low and I’m not even facing the TV, but it’s there, playing in the background. At the Q&A panel, I was surprised to hear that I wasn’t the only one, that incredibly good players are also guilty of this practicing sin, as well. Naturally, we had to discuss more on the topic. What we discovered was that for the most part we have the TV on not to actually watch what’s on it, but to have something keeping us company. One artist mentioned that it makes the time pass more quickly when practicing something tedious, like technique. Thinking back, that’s when I have it on, too. I never have anything distracting me when I’m trying to learn a new piece, working on phrasing, fingering, musicality, memory… Those are things that require my undivided attention. But time to time, when I’m working on the technical aspect of the piece, or practicing something at 1/4 the tempo, I’ll have some Netflix movie characters keeping me company (on low volume) and it helps me keep my sanity while spending so much time by myself with my guitar.

That said, I still wouldn’t recommend to practice with the TV on, mostly because the advice can be misunderstood and misused. I still think that in order to get the most out of the hours spent with the guitar, it’s better to give it your undivided attention. One has to be careful how they use distractions. Someone might use it to their advantage by making their practice more enjoyable but just as productive; another might misuse it and make their practice session completely worthless.

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2 Responses

  1. Lawrence says:

    Hi, Gohar
    I have the same experience with the practice in front of TV problem. But if I have a DVD program on how to play the guitar or recital then I can learn by watching the program without my guitar on hand.

    Therefore, I think it is important to have a practice plan every week or every month what a guitarist wants to achieve.

    My daily practice should include: scale with different rhythm, interval scale and chords changes, practise the musical score, etc.

  2. Peter Lauzier says:

    I also often practise with the t.v.on (usually Morning Joe) while concentrating in small doses on a specific aspect of playing. The sound is low and my attention to what is being said is minimal.When I do pick up on something that interests me, I put the guitar aside and listen until the segment is completed. I must add that,when I was an aspiring musician, intent on accomplishment, I practised without distraction for hours at a time. Now, at 69 years of age, I have no overarching ambition, and tend to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle, and divide my time and attention between those people and things that capture my interest and feed my soul and increase my joy of being connected to the joy and beauty of life.

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