Let me tell you what NOT to do first. If you wish to get better in time, do not just noodle on the guitar. What is noodling? Picking up the instrument every once in a while to play little bits and pieces for fun, attempting to play the passages you like at full speed, blasting through falsetas you play well, etc. I think you get the picture. There is nothing wrong with noodling. I do it too. But if your goal is to develop your technique, there is another path.
Primarily, you need to understand and accept that progress is achieved through time. I get countless emails where people say: "I cannot play such and such passage no mater how hard I try." Sometimes they even send me videos so I tell them what is wrong with their technique. And 9 out of 10, the video shows a person trying really hard to play a complicated passage at full speed. They keep trying over and over again hoping that it will work one day. Let me just say that it is extremely unlikely that you can become a better player by doing this. Maybe a better guitar noodler :-)
So before I reveal to you the list of things that you need to do, let me say that I have a very busy schedule and I can practise on average one hour a day and sometime less. I am not one of those musicians that put in solid 6-8 hours every day. I try to make the best use of this limited time by keeping in mind the following:
- Anything is playable if you slow it down to a manageable tempo. And I mean ANYTHING! Take your metronome, pick a very slow tempo and try to play the passage that's giving you trouble. Still not working? Slow it down even more. Keep going until you are able to play perfectly at that tempo. Remember this: every time you are making a mistake while practising the passage, you are practising the mistake along with the passage. So, play in slow motion. Do not play the passage fast to check if the practice is yielding results. Do not allow your ears to hear any mistakes.
- Only after a proper warmup can you play at your full capacity. This means, during the first 10 - 20 minutes (in my case 40) be gentle with yourself. Don't expect to play perfectly. You can also do a warm up routine with scales and arpeggios before you start working on the main course. Again, the warmup needs to be slow.
- Spend quality time with your instrument. In other words, practise with full focus and concentration. If you have 1 hour to practise, then make it an uninterrupted 1 hour. 5 mints here, 10 minutes there throughout the day do NOT add up to a full 1 hour practise. Or if you have, say, only 20 minutes, use every second of that time to focus fully on the piece you are practising. Do not get up to check email or messages, turn off your phone. Also keep in mind that PRACTISING and PERFORMING are two separate things. It's OK to PERFORM of course, but simply performing a piece for 1hour does not equal practising it.
- Practise one thing at a time. If you have several pieces that you wish to work on, pick one for each practice session.
- Here comes the big question: what to play. In classical guitar, one must play pieces. From start to finish that is… You cannot play a small section of Tarrega's Recuerdos de la Alhambra. You have to play all of it! In flamenco, however, it's different. Flamenco guitar music is made up of short musical paragraphs called FALSETAS. Each piece you hear will be made up of these internally complete bits of music. There is not a prerequisite number and order of falsetas for a piece to qualify as 'proper.' Therefore, flamenco is a modularstyle of music with interchangeable parts.
My advice to you: play falsetas and NOT pieces.
What do I mean by that? Do not practise, say, Cepa Andaluza (buleria) by Paco de Lucia. Pick some falsetas from it and practise those. Then pick falsetas from another buleria by another artist and practise those too. Then string them together into a new buleria. Every time you practise, change the order of the falsetas.
Next thing you know, you will start squeezing in your own falsetas into the modular buleria you have been practising! And that's how you compose in flamenco. You start by playing your master's falsetas. Then in time you add more and more of your own falsetas into your performance, which eventually leads to your own compositions.