Real Discipline

Real discipline is not sticking to a practice schedule or spending xx minutes on scales and xx minutes on arpeggios every day. Real discipline is also not practicing a certain number of hours each day or playing a hard section 20 times straight.

Real discipline is knowing when to stop. It’s knowing when working on a bigger chunk of music is not helpful–real discipline is having the mental fortitude and focus to break a hard passage down into even smaller sections. Real discipline is only working on one of those sections until it’s perfect, resisting the urge go on and keep up the rhythmic flow. It’s listening to your body and knowing when your hands and head need a break.

Real discipline is also knowing what level of repertoire is appropriate for you and, for the most part, sticking to it. Sure, play some challenging pieces, but try to balance those with pieces well within your skill level.

Real discipline is hard.

Posted on in Classical Guitar Practice Tips


  • Connor Milstead
    Connor Milstead

    This is true. A good, hard challenge is good every once in a while. It helps apply the techniques you’ve learned while helping you learn new ones at the same time. That’s my opinion.

  • Larry Deack

    Chris, do you know any other discipline besides music?

    The ability to focus for long periods of time is priceless in any discipline. Learning to focus on what is difficult and keep on working to the edge of your ability to focus will extend your endurance. This endurance is vital to building a set of tools for your chosen disciplines. After a sustained focus period it’s a good idea to distract yourself and let it sink in as a background task.

    As a computer programmer I learned that taking a break at the right point and just juggling was enough to get my head cleared out and ready for another attack on the problem I was working on. Several other engineers I knew took up juggling and found this same effect.

    The big problem for anybody who really pushes hard is burnout. Longer breaks can really help especially if you can get away to some nice quite place and remember that whatever you are working on it’s not about the work as much as how working hard changes you.

    • Christopher Davis


      I have serious interests in other things (web development, various topic that I research–how we make decisions is what I’m reading on now), but I wouldn’t call any of those disciplines.

      Good points!

  • Larry Deack


    Good to hear you have other interests. Our educational system tends to push people into specialization.

    In the 80’s I offered to wire the music department at Loma Linda University where I taught guitar and they told me they saw no need for computers in the music department. That’s when I realized how insular our educational system was and how it was more about getting credentials than getting a well rounded education that includes arts AND sciences.

    Did you learn the computer stuff on your own or did you take classes?