“What?” I hear you say...”you mean I got to practice this stuff?” Only if you want to get better at it...
You are investing both your time and money into learning to play the guitar. You go to your guitar lesson each week, but what do you do with the material from your lesson, when you get home? How do you get maximum return on your investment? This is what this article will cover.
There are some really useful things to know about practising. But first let me tell you about a little secret truth. If you get home and just casually pick up your guitar and half-heartedly, go over the material you have been given, let me tell you that is NOT practising. That is noodling. Noodling and practising is not the same thing!
It is best to have a plan and KNOW exactly what you are going to practice today - even if you only have ten minutes to practice. Having a dedicated, focused, fully planned ten minutes will get you further along the path faster than an hour of mindless noodling. So how do create a practice routine?
This article is not a 'be all and end all lesson' on how to practice. As you progress there will be different demands and disciplines required but the basics will stay with you for the rest of your playing days. Below are specific steps that, if you follow them as set out, will produce some dramatic results for you.
Step 1. Make a plan. Your guitar teacher by now has given you some material(s) that cover various areas of guitar playing. What ones should you be practising? All of the exercises and techniques you have. But not all in the same practice session. So your plan will be specific to you, but if you follow this guideline you will see results. If you have four or five different lesson material/exercises, divide your practise time up evenly. How can you gain results on five different materials/exercises if you've only got 10 minutes to practice your guitar?
If you only have ten minutes for practice, work on rhythm playing and some single note exercises for 5 minutes each today, which would be day 1. Tomorrow if you can, work on the other three sets of materials. Even simply rotating through the materials will help. Varying it up each day will help to keep it fresh and interesting, thus preventing boredom. You may like to set this up in a planner for yourself or in a excel spread sheet or something similar.
Step 2. Dedicate a specific amount of time. This step should be part of your plan. Set aside an allocated time each day. Work out for yourself are you a morning person or an evening person? Do you need to split up your practice time before work and when you get home? Maybe you're a night owl and 2 o'clock in the morning works best for you. Whatever time works for you, make the commitment to yourself and keep it.
Step 3. Set up. What does it mean by set up? It means having all of your lesson materials ready to go before you begin to practice. Do you have your folder with your lesson material in it? Is your metronome ready for action? Having everything you need ready and easily accessible, before starting your practice, saves a lot of time and reduces stress, if you don't have a lot of time to begin with to practice. Do you have a stand to put your materials on? Do you have your tuner?
Step 4. Turn off. So you have your plan in place and all of your materials and accessories are in easy reach. Now it is time to turn off - all mobile phones and electronic devices (except your guitar tuner/amplifier if using). Your Wi-Fi and T.V should be off.
Step 5. Tune up. Allow a minute or so before you start your practice to tune up your guitar. You should be doing this every time you sit down with your guitar anyway. This will help to develop your ear and you will begin to notice if it goes out of tune when playing or practising.
Step 6. Focus. For the next 10, 15 or 20 minutes (or whatever you have decided), focus entirely on the exercise/material at hand. Break the material down. Do not keep going back over the piece once you make a mistake. Isolate the mistake and turn the weakness into strength. Then, and only then begin to put the whole piece/section together.
Step 7. Study. Regular review and study of your materials is essential for your growth as a guitar player. Go over the material as many times as you have to until you know it. Lock those chord shapes, scale patterns and theory notes into memory so you can start creating music and not continually reading off the sheet.
So there you have seven simple steps to help you. By following these steps, you will achieve more than you probably thought before. Yes practice is what needed. There is the old saying that practice makes perfect. That is only a half-truth. Perfect practice makes perfect. Above are some basic tools for you to achieve this.
Allen Hopgood is a professional guitar instructor on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. He is committed to helping his students become better guitar players, with his modern guitar teaching techniques and strategies, ensuring they have a complete guitar learning experience.