Monday, December 8, 2014


I'm looking forward to playing some contests in the coming year.  I want to play a couple of old arrangements and a couple of new arrangements, so I've been writing a little.  The four tunes I'm looking at are Red Haired Boy (which I've done before), Liberty (which I've also done before, but haven't actually played in a contest), Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine (new to me), and maybe Leather Britches (also new to me).

It seems like the two usual problems I have with contest playing are: 1) Not starting early enough, and 2) Nerves.

My plan is to write and practice long before contest season actually starts, and to play out as much as possible with the tunes I'm going to use.  I spent some time working out a practice schedule for myself, which I've already fallen behind.  It includes a little writing, a little working on tracks and youtubes for this blog, and a little focused practice on my contest tunes each day.

The practice routine looks like this:

1.  Play rhythm along with some of the tracks on this blog to warm up the wrist.  Various tempos, starting at very comfortable and working up to brisk.  5 minutes or so.

2.  John Moore exercises (link here) for 5 minutes or so.  Starting relatively slow, about 110-140 bpm.  Hopefully dials in pick accuracy.

3.  Play one section of a contest tune about 10 times.  By one section, I mean A part and repeat, B part and repeat.  Slowly at the beginning of the week and speed up as the week goes on.

4. Review last week's focus area at a comfortable tempo.

5.  Write a couple of bars on the new tunes.

6.  Write a couple of bars on whatever tune I'm working on for this blog.

7.  Record a couple of rhythm tracks for this blog.  Just finished up rhythm tracks for Nine Pound Hammer, I should be posting those soon.

I do all of this (except for the writing) to a metronome or rhythm track.  On the days I'm not at work, I'll try to fit in some time to just play along with tracks or go to a jam to slowly build my overall picking speed and comfort.

What am I missing?  What do you guys do to get ready for a performance?


  1. Try playing the tunes MUCH FASTER than you can play them cleanly and don't worry about mistakes or crashing. Just concentrate on keeping your right hand as relaxed as possible throughout no matter how much you want to tense up. Get as many notes as you can but the objective i to STAY RELAXED. Do this for maybe 5-10 minutes of your overall practice time. When you do it for a while "real world" tempos don't seem so fast and that helps you to relax more when you play at those speeds. It's THINKING a song is "fast" that makes it fast. Get your mind thinking "This isn't so fast" and it won't be.

    1. Are you planning on being at Walnut Valley?

  2. Have to agrre with hipster....sounds like a way to circumvent our THINKING. When I think a song is too fast, I immediately go into "gotta keep up" mode. Never works.

    When you have time, check out this blog

    You can either go to the blog or search by topic with the archives at the bottom of the page.

    Good luckDave! Let us know when you're competing, so we can root for you.


  3. from the book "The Inner Game of Music"

    P = p - i


    So you can increase your potential by practicing of course but you can also work on decreasing the interference thus increasing the Performance. I am just starting to read the book but that equation above struck a "chord" with me...the notion that it's not all about execution but other mind games at play.

    I've always though about a contest...none around here....but I would say open mics are a good way to hone your contest nerves....

    Good luck and keep us posted!

  4. Thanks for the great ideas and links, guys. I will let you know how the practice progresses.

  5. Also excruciatingly s l o w slow you can no way tell which tune you're playing. This has helped me 100 fold. A friend & 2x Winfield champion showed me the light on this one. I'm talking, like 2-3 seconds between notes. It's tough...but it does pay dividends.
    Thanks for the backing tracks, love them.
    Put up New Camptown & maybe a little Redwing & Wheel Hoss when you're not busy. ;)

  6. I just ran across your site and sure have enjoyed browsing! Keep up the practice for contests. Maybe we'll see you in Winfield sometime.:)

  7. Howdy Dave. How is the competition preparation going? Anything coming up? Festival season is here!