Improvement vs. Maintenance, Part 1

This subject came up the other day as I was having a conversation with a friend and co-conspirator guitar antihero, and it’s a topic that I was going to talk1002069_48145026 about anyway, so I thought “fuck it, I’ll just go ahead and do it now.”

Exactly what topic is that, you might ask? The idea of practicing for the sake of improvement versus practicing for the sake of maintenance, which I’ll refer to as the “improvement model” and “maintenance model” from here on out.

 Just what’s the difference here?


Well, it’s really pretty simple: when we practice for the sake of improvement, we’re practicing in such way as to work towards a very specific goal, and that could be breaking new ground with a new concept, technique, or idea, or experiencing greater levels of understanding and application with something that we’ve already been doing, etc.

 In short, you’re practicing with the intent of actually doing something new, or improving some pre-existing aspect of your playing and/or overall mental knowledge base. Basically, we’re practicing to get better.

Practicing for the sake of maintenance, however, is a whole other ball game.


The maintenance model is based on maintaining what we’ve already developed, rather than breaking new ground or doing anything new, or even necessarily improving something that we’ve already got. This is really what we’re doing when we talk about keeping our chops up or keeping from getting rusty, rather than learning or implementing anything new.

 While the end goal for each model is different, the fundamental process is essentially the same: you set a specific goal (or as we say ’round these parts, develop a battle plan), then follow that plan until you’ve achieved your desired result. The only real difference here is the purpose of the battle plan; otherwise, we construct and follow it in the same way as we normally would for both models.

 Since our desired result is different for each model, it makes sense that our mindset and approach is different, too. Work with the improvement model often comes about through some type of inspiration, insofar as we’re inspired to do something “new”, or to bump up our abilities in a pre-existing area that may be lacking or not as developed as we’d like.

It can also come from internal or external pressure, rather than pure “inspiration”, as we might feel that we need to get better with something we’re doing based on our personal expectations, or the expectations and/or requirements of other people.

 For example, internal pressure could come from a general feeling of inadequacy in relation to a particular technique or concept, and external pressure from someone else requiring you to be more proficient in a specific area (a better working knowledge of scales and articulation techniques in order to land a lead guitar gig with a band you’ve auditioned for, etc.)

 Either way, the improvement model is plainly motivation-based, and the motivational factors are pretty obvious to most of us, especially since the results we get (or don’t get, as the case may be) are more direct and easily noticeable.

 Okay, so what about the maintenance model? Well, that’s also motivation-based, and sometimes it uses the same motivators as practicing for improvement, but there are some key differences here, and we’ll dig into those in the next installment.  

In the meantime, if you’re interested in taking concepts like these to the next level, click here.

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