By Nicholas Anderson
One of the hindrances to practicing is the inconvenience that comes with getting the guitar out of the closet, setting up the music stand, finding your music, picks, tuning the guitar, etc. One of the ways to practically guarantee you practice more is by having everything as ready as possible. If you can reserve space where you have all of your equipment set up and ready to go, you’ll be far more likely to sit down and practice, even if just for 5-10 minutes (and that small amount of time can be very valuable to your playing). If you cannot have everything set up, make the effort to keep everything easily accessible to reduce the amount of time it takes to get set up. This may sound simplistic and obvious, but most guitar players don’t do it.
Over the years I have noticed that the majority of guitar players do not organize their music and lesson material well. This will cause you to waste valuable practice time looking for the material you should be practicing. My recommendation is to get a three ring binder and clear plastic sleeves as well as dividers and labels. Use as many categories as you need to logically divide up your material. Scales, chords, studies, songwriting, music theory, etc., are just a few examples of the categories you might use. Once you have the binder completed you’ll have everything in one place at all times. No more shuffling through loose pages when you should be practicing. This alone can save you 5-10 minutes every single time you sit down to practice, which amounts to many, many hours of added practice time, and to you becoming a better player.
Be Goal Oriented
It’s critically important to your progress as a guitarist that you have specific goals that you’re working toward. Unfortunately, space does not allow me to elaborate on how to determine your goals, but it is important to have them and to make sure that they are specific enough that you can measure your progress toward those goals. Simply becoming a better guitar player is not a good goal. Be specific. Memorizing all of the major and minor modes is a good goal because it can be measured and you can see how much progress you’re making toward that goal. Without setting goals for yourself, you won’t know how to measure your progress and you won’t have a deep sense of purpose when you practice. Goals are often times the single most important factor in determining whether you persevere or whether you give up. Goals make the hard work of practicing day in and day out worthwhile.
How much time do you waste in your practice session because you’re not paying very close attention to what you’re doing? Chances are, more than you realize. Perhaps the most difficult hurdle to overcome is your own tendency to go on autopilot when you’re practicing your guitar. It’s very easy to get distracted by the TV, text messages, Facebook and a hundred other things that take your focus on your playing, but even when you remove all of those distraction, you cannot get away from your own wandering mind. Being present when you practice is critical to your progress, so turn off your phone, do not practice in front of a TV or computer, and tell anyone who is around you that you cannot be distracted while practicing.
Daily practice is one of the keys to making significant results. One famous violinist allegedly commented that when he skipped a day of practice, he noticed a difference. When he skipped two days of practice, his wife noticed. And when he skipped three days of practice, his audience would notice. If a virtuoso musician feels the need to practice on a daily basis, shouldn’t you? The reason daily practice is so critically important is because the skills you develop as guitarists tend to be cumulative in nature, meaning they build on top of what you’ve done in the past. Repetition on a daily basis does two things. (1) It reinforces what you’ve done the previous day and (2) it helps you make additional progress. When you skip a day, you fail to reinforce what you’ve learned and sometimes you then have to relearn everything you had been working on.
Before you do anything else, put one of these concepts into practice.
About the Author: Nicholas Anderson is a guitar teacher in his hometown of Olympia, WA. If you live in or near Olympia and are interested in lessons, contact him through his website at www.OlympiaGuitarLessons.com.