Creating An Effective Practice Schedule: Part 1
Over the years I've experimented with many different approaches to organizing my guitar practice. I've tried
methods where I just did what I felt like that day. And I've also tried highly-regimented and disciplined practice
routines. (I went through a period when I was younger when I had a six-hour practice routine that I would repeat
each and every day).
What I've found is this...
My progress is ALWAYS faster when I implement some kind of well-rounded and organized
weekly practice schedule. There is something about setting weekly practice goals that helps to build momentum. And
this momentum helps to speed up progress which then helps to build confidence.
For this lesson we'll start looking at the that I currently organize my guitar practice. It is important to
note though, that what works for me may not work for you. So don't be afraid to adjust the process to your own
Let's now look at some important elements of the way that I organize my practice...
Weekly Practice Time Goal:
I recommend setting a time goal each week. For this you will decide how much practice you will do that week.
How much you set will depend on your goals. For example...
- A purely recreational guitarist may set a goal of a few hours a week.
- A serious hobby guitarist who aims to one day play really well may set a goal of 10-14 hours a
- A guitarist who is working towards becoming a professional will obviously be putting in a LOT more
time. For them, setting a goal of 30+ hours a week would be much more appropriate.
The key benefit of setting weekly time goals as opposed to daily time goals is that it is more
For example, you may have some work or family emergencies crop up one day that mean that practicing that day
is impossible. But as long as you make it up the next day, you can still achieve your weekly target.
The Six Main Areas Of Focus:
At present, I focus on six key areas in my practice...
Area One: Technique
This is where you focus on very specific technical things that you would like to improve. What I like to do
is find technical problems that I am currently having and design exercises that solve those problems.
Obviously, if you are not advanced yet you may need guidance from a teacher for this.
Area Two: Fretboard Knowledge
This is where you memorize the notes on the fretboard (if you don't already know them). And you'll also
work on internalizing musical materials such as...
- Chords and chord progressions.
Learning to play and master these musical materials over the entire fretboard is an important long-term
project. (Especially if you play jazz!).
Area Three: Musicianship
This is a really important area, and includes things like...
- Developing your rhythmic perception.
- Music reading.
- Music theory.
Area Four: Repertoire/Vocabulary
This involves things like...
- Learning and internalizing new licks.
- Learning and internalizing new cover songs.
- Learning and internalizing new melodic and rhythmic motifs.
- Internalizing the songs that you have previously composed.
This area allows you to move from someone who studies guitar to someone who can actually play guitar. And
this is absolutely critical for developing confidence! (The more things you can play well, the more confident
you will feel about your guitar playing abilities).
Area Five: Review
Simply put, this is going over old stuff that you have previously learned. When you get more advanced you
will often see the old stuff in a new way. You will notice things that you didn't notice before. And this
allows you to do a few things...
- It increases your understanding of previously learned material.
- It makes sure that you don't forget it.
- It helps you to identify new things that you would like to add to your practice schedule. (I will often
go back to old things and start practicing them again in more detail than when I first learned them).
Area Six: Success Mindset
This involves things like...
- Thinking about and writing out your musical goals.
- Reading books on goal-setting and general success principles.
- Visualizing yourself playing like you would truly like to play.
Obviously, the more ambitious your musical goals, the more time you will need to invest doing this. Being an
excellent guitarist is definitely a very long-term project. And working on your success mindset regularly will
help you to stay focused and motivated.
Small Time Chunks:
I generally like to organize my practice in small chunks of chunks of time. This means I will practice one
thing for around 15 to 20 minutes before moving onto the next thing. This works really well for me—It's long
enough to get some good work done, but not so long that I get bored!
Of course, this isn't set in stone. Sometimes I will get really enthused about what I'm practicing and spend
the whole day on it! It's all part of the fun of learning the guitar. ?
OK. That's all for now. In the next part, I'll be going into more specifics on how to organize your guitar
practice. But for now, please do the following action steps...
- Read through this lesson again.
- Decide on a weekly practice time goal.
- For each of the six areas of focus think of at least 3 specific things that you want to practice. This will
give you a list of 18 practice items. What you choose will depend on your current musical goals. (If you're not
sure, then ask your guitar teacher or a friend who is more advanced for advice).
Until next time...practice hard and have fun!
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