If you are like most guitar players you sometimes feel frustrated with your guitar playing. You know mastering guitar playing takes a lot of time, energy and effort. It seems like a huge mountain to climb in order to reach the highly advanced levels of guitar playing. You know that few people who attempt to climb that mountain will actually achieve it... but if you are truly determined to reach these goals you certainly can!
Fact is, one of the biggest reasons why so few people become great guitarists is not because they lack talent, but rather due to not knowing all of the things they need to do or practice in order to reach their goal. People usually have more than enough things to practice (licks, techniques, exercises, scales etc.) but struggle most with creating an overall plan to get them the result they want.
Taking your guitar playing ability from wherever it is right now to exactly where you always dreamed it could be in the shortest amount of time can be done. Having a well-structured (yet flexible) guitar practice regimen is a key first step to do this.
I know... I know... You've heard this before, it seems 'obvious', so why talk about it again here?
Well, unfortunately, many guitarists have misconceptions about having an efficient and effective practice schedule. Others have tried it for a while but either didn't stick with it, or had an ineffective practice plan to start with.
Have you ever believed any of the following myths?
Effective guitar practicing routines are boring, it takes all the fun out of playing guitar.
I started putting myself on a practice schedule for guitar, but it was hard to stick to it.
Practice schedules are too rigid and they restrict, or put limitations on my creativity.
A guitar practice regimen is too structured for me, I want the freedom to allow myself to drift into random things when playing guitar.
Practice routines for guitar just don't work. I can make more progress without one.
I can't stand to practice the same things in the same way each day.
Now think about this:
The truth is, 'bad' practice routines do suck! However, efficient, effective and flexible ones have the power to totally transform your guitar playing, musicianship and your creativity in a shorter period of time. Imagine how much better your guitar playing life will be like after you fully reached all of your musical goals!
Good practice regimens won't hurt your creativity, the opposite is true because you are gaining the tools to become more creative... and your schedule can include 'creative time' to work on writing new songs, improvising, etc.
It's not boring to practice that which directly relates to the very things you want to achieve as a guitar player and musician. Yes practicing the same exercise for 30 minutes 'is' boring, which is why you shouldn't design a guitar practice schedule in such a way. We want to create a structure that works, not one that will drive you crazy.
You do not need to spend all your guitar practice time with a fixed schedule. If you have 90 minutes to practice, invest 45-60 minutes working from your planned guitar practicing regimen. Use the rest of time to freely do whatever you feel like playing that day.
The best routines are not the same each day. A good guitar practice workout schedule should be effective, efficient and flexible.
A practice schedule is a roadmap to freedom of being able to play whatever you want! But this doesn't mean that you don't have any room to have fun, be creative, and enjoy playing guitar in the process. The only difference is that now you will be enjoying the process more while you get better, and avoid mindlessly playing around on the guitar with no direction or sense of purpose. As a result, it will take you much less time to become the exact kind of excellent guitar player you want to be.
The best way to think about an efficient practice schedule is with an analogy of a map. When you prepare to travel somewhere, you first analyze where you are (Point A), and then prepare the most direct and time efficient route of arriving to your destination (Point B).
Step 1. Get very clear on what your long term guitar playing / musical goals are. Beware of distractions... there is a big difference between 'short term goals' and 'distractions'. True short-term goals should be consistent with your long-term goals. If they aren't, then you might be simply distracting yourself from what you really want to achieve as a guitar player and musician. When creating your practice routine, focus mainly on long-term goals.
Step 2. Balance your existing strengths and relevant weaknesses. Seek to turn your strengths into super strengths and 'only' work on weaknesses that are truly 'relevant' to your goals (see step 4 below).
Step 3. Be realistic about how much time you can practice each day. As mentioned above, you can and should allow 'free time' in your schedule to learn, practice, or do other things with your guitar outside of your written guitar practice regimen.
Step 4. You must be 100% sure you really know all the musical elements which are needed to reach your long term goals, and you need to be clear about which of these elements are the 'primary' and 'secondary' priorities for you to focus on right now in order to reach your specific goals. To get help, I have created a totally free resource for you to use
Step 5. Contrary to popular belief, creativity can be taught, learned and practiced. Always include creativity development into your practice schedule (or work on it at least in your free time).
Step 6. Application is key! Be sure to add time each day to work on applying your skills even if you have not mastered them yet! It's a big mistake to work only on mastering something before seeking to apply it.
Step 7. Don't create the same schedule for each day of the week, your schedule should be based on larger period of time (I use an 8-day practice and learning schedule for my students - works much better compared to a routine that repeats itself each day). Maybe 2, or 3 of the days are the same, but the other days are a little different (yet still based on the above steps mentioned).
Step 8. Create 3-5 different 8-day practice regimens. Use each one twice (16 days) before working with the next one. Be sure that when you create them that each are based on the first 7 steps above.
1. Get committed!
2. Stay committed! Follow through with your plan and watch your guitar playing get better and easier. If you find it hard to stay committed, focus on the 'reasons' behind the goals you have set for yourself, in other words, keep in mind "why" you want to reach those goals. How you will feel after you achieve them and are able to be/do/have what you want as a musician.
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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