It may be redundant to say it, but guitarists simply love the guitar. Sometimes, we spend hours and hours noodling away, getting lost in the beautiful sounds our instrument can produce, and moving from one idea to the next in a spontaneous flow. Despite being a very rewarding and enjoyable experience, this type of activity does not resemble the ‘real’ practice that is going to make us better players. Being creative and improvising on the guitar is a very important part of our musical development, but let’s have a look at how we can work at getting better effectively and efficiently.
Creating a practice schedule and following it on a daily basis is necessary to keep us focused and give us direction when we pick up our instrument. Most of the times, not having a clear goal or intention behind a practice session will make us lose interest in what we are doing and lessen our motivation to improve ourselves in the longer run.
Keep it simple, keep it short
Drawing a practice schedule is not complicated at all. Firstly, we need to identify how much time we can assign to practising the guitar. This depends on your daily/weekly schedule and all the other commitments you have in your life. So, it is best to assess the situation first and come up with a realistic time frame. There’s nothing wrong with having ‘only’ 20 minutes a day to practise guitar. Consistency, focus, and being organized with the musical areas you address during each session can actually generate amazing results over longer periods of time. If your life allows you to ‘virtually’ play guitar for 3 or 4 hours a day, I would still suggest to start with a much shorter period of time dedicated to practice. It is very easy to overwhelm yourself when facing 3 or 4 hours of practice every day. In a sense, it is more productive to start out slowly and gradually build momentum one step at a time. If you still feel motivated and inspired after one hour of practice, then it would be easy enough to get going for a little extra time.
Secondly, it is important to prioritize the musical areas you would like to improve in your playing, which is also dependent on how much time you can practise for. If your life allows 30 minutes of daily practice, then I would suggest to split the half an hour into three blocks of 10 minutes each. If you feel that your overall technique, time feel, and repertoire need attention, then you could organize your practice as follows: one block can be assigned to warming up and developing technique; another to rhythm and time; and the last to learning a song. Spending 10-15 minute blocks on one musical area is the most effective way to get better because we allow ourselves to focus on one activity at a time and we avoid the risk of getting bored by working on the same thing for too long. Furthermore, real progress happens over time as we need to assimilate new skills and concepts. Tackling one area of your playing in short but consistent sessions will generate much better results than doing for 2-3 hours once a week or fortnight.
Finally, keeping track of how well you are following your practice routine is as important as setting one up in the first place. Have your schedule printed out and tick the boxes every time you do the work. Allow yourself a moment to appreciate the effort you’ve put in and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from knowing that you have found the time and the motivation to dedicate yourself to something you’re passionate about. These daily rewards are only going to make you enjoy the guitar and music more and more and give you an extra boost to continue improving your guitar skills and overall musicianship.