“Picking Practice” by Glen Yakushiji

Sermon for Seekers Church
Glen Yakushiji

Picking Practice


[In this sermon, Glen also demonstrated what he talked about.]


Because this season’s theme is Patience and Practice CC has asked me to talk about practice.


I often think of two ideas I heard about practice. Brenda Ueland in her book about writing mentioned Tolstoy saying he wanted to write every day to avoid what he called “the meagernesses.” I think he means the feeling that you have lost a connection to a creative place. The other saying is: you don’t get worse at what you practice. Practice isn’t a guarantee that you will improve.


I love practicing with my guitar. Almost every morning I’m at home I run through a series of exercises.


For practice to be effective I must pay attention to many things at once.


The most important issues are: relaxation and concentration. I continually ask if I am using the proper amount of energy–can I feel any tension anywhere? and am I distracted, or am I keeping a peaceful center?


After those questions I think about tone, pitch, buzzing strings, where to put my fingers.


It’s important to practice slowly. The slower the better.


1. finger weight

            warm up routine


            shifting weight


2. rolling

            finger independence



3. spider


            smooth movements


4. fingerpicking

            free / rest strokes


5. repeat notes



6. scales

            circle of 4ths

            scale degrees / modes



There are many other exercises I use. I enjoy discovering the tiny improvements that only I can feel. As I live with the practice I gradually begin to see more connections and resonances between music theory and the physical layout of the guitar fretboard. Practice is not meditation. And for me is not a passive activity.


As I practice, concentration becomes easier, technique becomes internalized and slowly stops being something I am doing, but starts to become part of me; an incarnation of God.

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