Guitar players generally fit into one of the following categories:
Guitar players that do not practice
Guitar players that practice but do not plan out their practices
Guitar players that plan out all of their practices
Which category do you fit in to?
If you chose either 1 or 2 you are not alone. There are many guitar players who have chosen the same path that you have. The good news for you is that you have made the choice to get out of that holding pattern and find a way to make your practice time more productive.
In this article I am going to go over methods that are going to help you instantly improve your practice time and also get much more out of your practicing than you do right now.
Before we get started there are a few questions you need to think about and then answer.
- Do you have a plan for when you practice or do you just wing it? - Do you know how much more you will benefit from having your practice planned out in advance? - Do you know the pitfalls of not having your practice planned out in advance?
Before you sit down to practice, what things are usually on your mind? Are you focused on how you are going to use your time to improve your guitar playing? Are you excited about the process of improving your guitar playing?
If you answered no to one of both of those questions, you will need to change the way that you think about practicing. If you are pumped up to improve any aspect(s) of your guitar playing, you will be more focused and dedicated to reaching your goal, even if it is harder than you anticipated it being.
If you approach practice (from a mental standpoint) like it is a chore or think of it as boring, you won’t get nearly as much from your practice time. You will be too focused on other things - like “how long do I have to do this for?” or “I don’t even know why I’m doing this.”
Can you see how thinking that way can be damaging to your practice?
Results / Goals:
What is it that you want to get out of your practice session? You want a result but what result is it that you want? This is the time to be very specific. Each day that you practice, you need to have a goal, it doesn’t have to be a huge goal, it can be part of a smaller goal that gets you to a bigger goal.
The easiest way to start is to figure out what your big goals are and then work backwards to find the smaller goals along the way. The goals can be anything that you want them to be but you do need to set them.
On average- how long do you spend practicing each week? How much time do you spend practicing each day? The good news is that no matter what your answer is you can get easily reach your goals just by managing your practice time better.
You don’t have to spend hours each day practicing- a focused 30 minute practice is much better than an unfocused 60 minutes.
How much goof off time do you have during a typical practice session? This is one of the big dangers when you're practicing. Most guitar players spend more time just goofing off (playing things that they can already play) and don't take the time to make the improvements that need to be made.
Instead of just playing or the sake of playing, jumping from technique to technique or lick to lick, take the time to investigate what it is that your playing and to see what you can do to improve it. Whether it is changing the angle of your pick hand, using dynamics, rhythm, playing in different keys, playing the like over different chords, playing the lick over different time signatures, ect.
There is a long list of things that you can change about your licks or riffs to challenge yourself and work towards being able to play those things in ANY musical situation at any time. Again, make a list of the items listed about and then add to it and practice those things. Re-dedicate your goof off time to taking the things that you know and running them through your list or new items.
Seeing the Big Picture:
There will be times where you feel discouraged when you practice. Maybe it is taking longer than you thought to reach a goal or get past an obstacle. This is a perfectly normal thing to go through- we all go through it.
What you want to do when you get to this point is think about the end result that you are looking for. Remember what it is that you want to be able to do and why you are practicing in the first place. If you need to take a break, take one. The most important thing here is not to let frustration get the best of you and allow it to lead to more mistakes while you are practicing. Sometimes taking a break and coming back refreshed is all that you will need in order to begin moving forward again.
When you practice- everything from your thoughts to how you invest each second matters. There is nothing wrong with setting some time aside to just play, it has to come after you have put your time in practicing.
What you will notice is that the more time you put in to practicing and the more detailed your practice sessions, the more fun and rewarding it will be to just play guitar (formerly known as goof off time) after you have finished practicing.
Always keep your goals in mind while you practice and think about how what you are doing is going to lead to you becoming the guitar player that you want to be. Making the improvements listed in this article will make an immediate difference in the results you get from your practice and help you reach your goals much faster than if you don't follow them.