GUITAR EVERYDAY: How to Maximize Study Time

Having trouble getting to your guitar practice every day? Need a little help with motivation? 

We all go through periods where life gets in the way of our love for guitar. Here are a few simple tips to help get you more motivated and back to practicing guitar every day.

Around four months ago I started working with a new student on Skype. He is 62 years of age. He likes to learn music by some of the classic blues players, (i.e., Lightening Hopkins). His job through the years had him using his hands a lot so they are fairly stiff and so he does has trouble playing - but he's not letting that slow him down.

When I told him that he will have to practice for approx 1000 hours to get the basic skills down, and then another 1000 to gain good proficiency over his muscle movements, and then another 1000 to really burn it all in - he said the following... "Well, that's about 8-10 hours a week, as long as I'm alive in 6 years, I figure that I'll be able to play some fairly good guitar."

Now that's the attitude of a winner! Fair enough, he is finding that it's hard to practice guitar for more that 6 hours a week. But, he is keeping a log book and his first goal is to reach 200 hours, (he's currently just crossed 100).

One of the most important feelings about practicing guitar is to feel like you're making the investment. You need to get into this with some finish lines set in your future that you can make it to and then cross.

When a student has a feeling that they are playing better and better over time, they become more motivated. And, the motivation will be different from one player to the next. Some players want to learn theory, others want to jam to their favorite songs.

But, one thing is consistent, every time a motivated player picks up the guitar, they incorporate some of the new theory and new ideas, and they get better. And, my Skype student proves that you’re never too old to enjoy playing.

When you sit down to practice guitar, separate yourself from any electronic “gizmos” (social media, phones, tablets, video games). Only have on what directly pertains to your guitar studies. Anything else is a terrible distraction, that can too easily take you away from getting anything accomplished.

One of the reasons that I've designed the Creative Guitar Studio members area so that members can download handouts, print them and place them on a music stand, is to get people away from the computer screens. The handouts are a critical part of learning. They allow the student to sit back and focus on the music, away from any screens.

When an example or scale routine needs clarification, the members area videos will help a great deal, but the real focused learning time will occur between you and the paper placed on your music stand.

Left and right hand finger technique is one of the most important areas of development that a guitarist can make as a regular part of their study time. The exercises that a guitarist adds along side of their scales and arpeggios will help polish their hand co-ordination up to levels where very little thought needs to go into each finger movement.

So, practicing guitar technique studies that involve picking-patterns through different rhythms, doing string crossing and working on several non-musical drills, like chromatic studies, will go a long way to improving technique. And, when a student adds "Guitar Technique" into their daily routine, big changes will start to happen with regard to playing ability - and those changes will occur at a very rapid rate.

Students who form a practice plan that includes multiple objectives will keep their study time more proactive. For example: by starting with scales (5 min.);  moving onto finger-picking, (5 min.), switching to blues licks (5 min.); moving into songs, (10 min.), a student will cross through many areas of playing. This will not only make the study time feel less stressful, but it will keep your mind far more alert.

If a student practices for 30 minutes, but divides their time in 3, 5 or 10 minute segments, their comprehension of what they practice will be much better. And, the information will be retained longer.

The fact that there is a shorter period of time will also encourage the student to zone in on material better because the attention span is shorter. Muscle memory (motor-skill) improves as we spend less time on a subject because our focus is higher.

As a player practices, sometimes they may feel that they want to put more minutes for one or two points because of a feeling like they are so close to reaching their objectives. This is perfectly fine, as long as, the time doesn't go too far overboard. 

Always try to maintain some discipline with your practice period. The biggest factor toward perfect practice will always come down to consistency and to your daily rehearsals.

While most of us would like to play guitar everyday, the reality is that there are so many other things on our to do list, we sometimes end up pushing away our time to practice until the day is over and we unfortunately don't practice at all.

The ultimate solution is finding ways to experiment with your time. Do you need to go out to eat? Or, can you make a quick meal and stay home practicing while some food is in the oven heating up for 20 min.? 

Do you really want to fall down the rabbit-hole of FaceBook or Instagram? Or, can you grab the guitar instead of grabbing social media? 

How about making a decision to only watch your favorite TV shows or NetFlix on the weekend, or only on a certain night of the week - to free up more time for guitar studies.

There are always ways to open up more time, but you need the motivation to get things started. Hopefully, this information I've provided here, will help things move more into the right direction for you. 

All it often takes is making that first step. Maybe it's that first week of a practice schedule change that snowballs into a month, and then into a year of incredible practice. You'll never know until you try this and experience the results.

Once you start to notice the effects of these study changes, I think you'll become hooked on them and your weekly routine will evolve right along with your guitar skills.



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