It’s okay to just sit and stare into space, wondering how to kick start your practice, this is normal both for intermediate and advanced players and it’s definitely worse for beginners. Sitting and staring with your guitar in hand is not a bad idea, it actually makes you look cool? but will it improve your playing? NO. Will it maximize your time? NO. Will it get you anywhere at all? NO. So, snap back into reality and follow these steps I’ve outlined below and get the most effective and rewarding substance out of your practice time.
Set up a sincere practice schedule. I know you want to improve on your guitar with so much speed and accuracy, but don’t deceive yourself by drawing up a fake and unrealistic time table in the process. If you work from 9am to 5pm for instance, it would be very impractical to draw up a time table of 4 or 5 hours of practice per day. You know your daily routine, set up a schedule that would fall perfectly in line with it, don’t postpone or cancel other important activities, just squeeze in a little more time for your guitar practice, even if it is 30 minutes to 1 hour daily, that’s still something! Remember, the idea is not just to have long practice sessions, but to make something productive even out of the short, regular, consistent sessions you have.
Ensure you set up your practice space prior to your practice time, keep it tidy and let everything you’ll need for practice be handy (cords, picks, amp, tuner, capo etc). Setting up during your practice time is time consuming, it will eat into your practice time and give you lesser time to practice than you already budgeted. Besides, it’s easier to practice when everything is already in place, when what’s left is just to turn few knobs and switches and you’re good to go! If you wanna know how to set up and what should be in your practice space, see my article on Essentials For Your Guitar/Music Practice Space
Before you start practicing, do some warm up exercises, run some scales, play some solos and most importantly, tune your guitar if it’s not already in tune. If you’re going to be practicing singing and playing the guitar at the same time, do some vocal warm-ups too; this would help you make your hands and voice flexible and ready for practice!
When practicing, start with those areas that give you difficulty, and after you have mastered it, you can move to what you already know. Moving straight into what you already know and spending time in playing it over and over again makes your practice time unfruitful and makes you under-utilize your brain power. If you still do not get it right in one session and your practice time is up, don’t sweat it, just continue from where you stop when next you come to practice.
Different people have different learning abilities, some can concentrate completely over a long period of time more than others. Don’t swallow up all your practice time at once, take breaks and digest what you have learned. For example, if you’re someone whose attention span is short and your practice time lasts for 2 hours, you can take a 3 to 5 minute break every 30 minutes and stretch out, take a stroll around the house, take a snack or do whatever else would make you feel relaxed and come back feeling refreshed and ready to work! If you force yourself to go on for 2 hours at a stretch, you may not achieve as much as you would when you take breaks, you may even doze off or end up feeling uninterested, hereby making your entire practice time unproductive.
Spend some time to stand and play. Its a lot much harder to do this, it would feel very uncomfortable at first, mostly because of how much you’d have to bend your hands and fingers and how much the guitar will weigh on you, but it will get easier and more rewarding as you do it more often, it’s an added advantage as a guitar player to be able to stand and sit comfortably while playing the guitar, especially if you plan on being a “gigging” musician or you’re already one.
Take up self-challenging tasks during your practice time. Always strive to achieve more than you did yesterday, challenge yourself; score a solo to perfection, improvise on another guitarist’s work, use a metronome or timer to speed up the tempo of a song and keep up with the fast tempo. Challenge yourself in all sorts of ways, push to go beyond where you already are. Remember that you develop more and improve better when you push yourself beyond your limits.
Set realistic and achievable goals. Setting goals for yourself would help you maintain focus and know exactly where you’re headed. Set goals that are feasible and you can actually accomplish. Let’s look at a scenario I actually witnessed: I had 2 beginner guitarists under my tutelage and I asked them to tell me one song each that they feel they would confidently be able to play by the end of 5 guitar practice sessions with them (which would take about 2 to 3 weeks). The older one (about 18 years old) said “Feliz Navidad Christmas carol song because that’s my favourite” ?and then the younger one (about 14 years old) blew me away and said “Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption”.? I went wild with shock! I didn’t know whether to laugh? or cry? The main point I’m trying to establish here is that guitar practice is not rocket science, take it one step at a time, set goals that are realistic and achievable, not magical or fairy tale goals.
Always record yourself and listen to what you played during and after practice time, the immense growth and progress achieved by doing this cannot be overemphasized. We all make mistakes or get it wrong at some point, but recording yourself would help you pinpoint where exactly the mistake was made and how you can correct it. You do not need to get a very expensive recording device, your smartphone will simply suffice, provided it does not become a tool for distraction.
Its easier to learn anything when you’re enjoying it and having fun while at it, guitar practice works the same way too. When you’re practicing, play your favourite songs, have fun and be serious at the same time, no one says playing the guitar has to wear a ‘stern look’ on its face. The more you enjoy playing the songs you love, the more you’d want to put in more time in practicing daily which will in turn sky rocket your progress.
If you want to get better at playing the guitar, you definitely have to do all it takes to make the best use of whatever time you allocate for practice. Even when you’re not practicing, make a habit of listening to other great guitarists, you’ll get drive and motivation from it.
Enjoy your practice time!?
What do you do to get the best out of your practice time? Comment below.