How Structured Should Practice Time Be?
Keeping up with our guitar practice series [read part 1: What Is Practice? And What Makes It Effective?], let’s have a look in some more detail at what we should be using our time for.
So what time do you have available for guitar practice, how often and most importantly what are your goals?
If you only have half an hour, it may be worth working on one thing for a few weeks until you have really mastered it, and not trying to learn a few thing badly. Before you feel suicidal at the thought, keep in mind, that you will see great improvement in your whole guitar playing by focusing on one element. Imagine being able to flow though songs without mistakes or stops – all because you have the basics together and have confidence in your abilities!
Alternatively, if you have 6 hours, it’s best to break your time up into chunks and work on a few things. Of course, if you have 6 hours to practice, your goals are going different.
What I’m advocating for most people’s schedules is mastering one thing at a time and then moving on. Hard graft leads to faster improvement. Plus if you have a plan, you will waste less time deciding what to practise as you can get down to business with the least amount of stress and fuss. That way you will maximise your practice time, be determined to overcome the challenge and move onto the next one.
Master one thing
I’d suggest that you don’t focus 10 minutes on scales, 10 minutes on chords, etc.
But take the whole time on a scale, play it over a groove and make it sound like you have been playing it for years. Or spend your time figuring out new chord voicings all over the guitar’s neck, then try to use the new chords in one of your favourite songs. When you have mastered it, move on.
As you either advance or allocate more time, you could consider using the whole time to revisit some music you learn a few months ago or a new chord you learnt last week. Or maybe, use part of the time to revisit, relearn and go over stuff, with the rest of the time working on something new.
Like I spoke about last time, recording what you’ve worked on means both audio [to track progress] and taking notes, so you can revisit ideas later [Carl Verheyen fills 8 or so note books each year with new licks/chord/melodies].
The more you plan what you will work on and focus on it until it’s complete, the faster your improvement will be.
For the pros
Of course if you have 6 hours, your goals will be different and maybe your expectations career-wise as well. With 6 hours, you can mould that time to work on key skills like part writing, sight reading (horror!), finding new sounds, recording techniques and so on. Then you could move onto styles and their different attributes studying the key musicians who are known as being experts in that field.
It’s all relative – focus on you, without comparing how other players might be doing – and enjoy the results!