How To Best Practice Guitar To Play The Way You’ve Always Dreamed
You’ve heard the saying “practice makes perfect”. This however is not entirely true. It assumes one will not only practice, but practice the correct way. It would be better to say “perfect practice makes perfect”.
Simply picking up your guitar regularly to practice, while certainly good, won’t cut it. You need to be sure you are practicing in the very best, most effect ways when picking up your guitar each day.
How exactly do you do this?
I’m glad you asked, because that is the topic of this article.
Here is how you can get the very most out of the time you invest into practicing guitar:
1. Creating The Right Conditions In Which To Practice Your Guitar Playing
When practicing guitar, you need to create the right environment/conditions in which to do so. In front of the T.V. or your computer is not going to work. While picking up your guitar to play when watching T.V. can be relaxing and fine to do, it is no substitute for a highly focused practice session.
Having your computer on, in front of you, won’t work either. Emails, facebook notifications and the like will only distract you and severely limit the progress you make in any one practice session.
Having people distract you be it phone calls from friends, or family members interrupting your practice, will also effect the results you get from your practice sessions.
Create highly focused practice sessions by making sure there are no distractions. Tell family members not to disturb you no matter what (unless it is an emergency, like the house is on fire or someone is dying).
Turn your phone and computer off.
If you need something on the computer for your practice, then print it. If you need a backing track, then fine, but don’t have your browser open or email open.
Have everything ready ahead of time (pic’s, capo’s, paper, pens etc) so you don’t waste valuable practice time.
Choose a time of day that works best for you regarding practice. For example, morning is generally best for me because this is the time of day I am most alert. It may be different for you, and that’s fine, but choose a time of day where you will be most productive.
Setting the right conditions for your practice will make a BIG difference to the progress you make!
2. Keeping Your Brain Engaged
I use to practice my guitar playing with mindless repetition. As a result my progress was very slow.
Repetition is good, and needed, however if you don’t have your brain engaged with what your fingers are doing every step of the way, you won’t make a lot of progress.
Yes, this most definitely takes more mental energy, however with your brain engaged with every motion your hands and fingers make, you will make more progress in 5 minutes of practice verses 30 mins of mindless repetition.
3. Work On What Needs Work
Focusing on stuff you can already do in your practice sessions is called playing guitar. That’s great, but keep this for when you are playing, not practicing your instrument.
When practicing guitar, focus on what you CAN’T do yet so you can go about improving and developing your playing. Too many guitarists tend to focus on what they can already do on the guitar when practicing, and end up just playing and noodling around.
Know what needs work, plan ahead what you will work on, and then commit to doing exactly that in each and every practice session.
4. Break Things Down Into Small Manageable Pieces
One of the biggest mistakes I see students do all the time when practicing guitar is to try and do too much at once. Whether this be a part of a song or solo, or whatever, you MUST break things down into small bite size chunks. Much smaller than you may think. This could be a single bar or even a single beat, depending on what it is you are working on.
You will learn things much better, and quicker, in small chunks as oppose to bigger pieces.
As is the case with a lot of what I am presenting in todays article, it’s very simple, yet most aspiring guitarists don’t do this. It’s like your brain tricks you into thinking you can deal with bigger pieces at a time be it a song, or solo, or similar.
Don’t be fooled.
Break things up into small parts when learning them, before putting these parts back together. It’s the only way.
5. Take Things SLOWLY!
Playing too quickly just reinforces messy, inaccurate, sloppy playing and leads to much, unnecessary frustration. Play and practice things SLOWLY at first, so that your fingers have a chance to learn what it is you are playing accurately and consistently.
Speed will develop naturally if you take this approach.
6. Without A Schedule That Has Been Planned Out Ahead Of Time
Picking up your guitar regularly to practice is great!
However, even better is to plan out what you are going to practice. In other words, creating a practice schedule. Not only does this get rid of any overwhelm you may feel regarding all the stuff you need to work on, it also provides you with a plan, rather than simply noodling around on the guitar and doing whatever.
Creating an effective, results driven practice schedule is beyond the scope of this article, however a bad schedule is better than no schedule at all.
I recommend planning a week out at a time. The more you create a practice schedule, the better you get at it, and the more consistently you’ll find yourself sticking to it. It takes discipline, but discipline is what is needed to become a great guitar player.
So there you have it. Take the time to absorb what we have covered in today’s article, and then be sure to implement it immediately into your guitar practice. Doing this on a consistent basis will have you making much greater progress with your guitar playing, in much less time too!
Simon Candy is a professional guitar teacher who has been helping people reach their guitar playing goals for over 20 years. Simon teaches a number of styles including blues, rock, jazz and finger-style. Specializing in the acoustic, Simon offers online lessons for acoustic guitar