W. Mark Akin

Guitarist: Instructor, Performer

The Mark Akin School of Guitar Excellence

Ok, so I stole this title from my grad professor at Arizona.  It was originally the Tom Patterson School of Guitar Excellence, but the point remains the same: it's the "5 time thing."

It's a simple enough concept; when you're practicing and you come across a difficult passage or play a mistake, play that passage 5 times perfectly.  If you mess up one of those times, you have to start over again.  Now, two important things to remember about this is to 1. Take it SLOW!  Don't play the passage a tempo.  Just take it easy on yourself and slow it down.  2. Breathe and relax between practices.  Play the passage, then breathe.  Play the passage then breathe.  If you don't relax in between, you ingrain a tenseness and anxiousness into performing.  Tenseness and anxiousness are not part of the Mark Akin School of Guitar Excellence.  

What I love about the "5 time thing" is that it allows just a hint of nerves to come in to play.  Once you get to time 3 or time 4 nerves start to creep up and you think to yourself "oh man I hope I don't mess this up because I really want to go to the next part of my piece."  Practicing with nerves help us get used to performing with nerves.  And getting used to nerves allow for better performances.  

A good way to visualize this would be to take 5 small items (coins, beans, guitar picks, bugs, Lego bricks, etc) and put them on one side of your music stand.  After every successful and perfect practice of the passage (say that a few time fast - perfect practice passage perfect practice passage...) slide an item to the other side of the music stand.  If you make a mistake slide them back to the original side and start again. 

So take away the basics of this way to practice:

  1. 5 times perfectly (and slowly!)

  2. Breathe!

  3. Don't mess up!

  4. Start over if you do mess up!

If you use this simple practicing tool, you might just be a student of the Mark Akin School of Guitar Excellence.