How To Create A Practical Practice Schedule
By Joshua Leblanc
The hardest thing for many guitar players is creating an effective practice schedule. After a few years of playing, many guitarists have a lot of material to work on it can become overwhelming on what to work on. Here are a few tips on how to get around this.
Understanding Practice Versus Playing
The first thing is to understand what the difference is between practicing your guitar and playing your guitar. When you play your guitar, you are doing this more for enjoyment. This is when you work on playing solos you like. This is also the opportunity for you to notice where you are lacking in your playing. When you catch these moments make notes of them. Practicing your guitar is when you work on the areas of your playing that need improvement. This isn't shredding your favorite solo for twenty minutes. This is where you may isolate the sweep picking lick and begin to work it back into the solo.
Knowing What You Need To Practice
When it comes to figuring out what you need to practice, the first thing you need to do is figure out what you need to work on. Maybe there are chords in the song you are wanting to learn but you don't know how to play or you struggle with. Perhaps there is an arpeggio that trips you up in the solo you are wanting to learn. The point is that you want to make sure there is a purpose to what you are practicing. Practicing for the sake of practicing will burn you out and make you not want to practice. You need to see progression through your practice sessions. Note that you may not see immediate results after every single practice session and that is normal. If you aren't seeing progression after a while then you may need to adjust the items you are practicing to become more difficult.
Understanding How Long To Practice
This is the hardest part to figure out on your own. The answer is you have to find how long you can practice in a focused manner before you hit the point of diminishing returns. So for example, if I were to set aside one hour for practicing each day I will first write out what my goal for that period will be and then focus on practicing that for as long as I can until my attention begins to fade. When I find that I can't focus for a long enough period of time, I will instead begin to play my guitar which is not what I want. Instead, I may have several items to practice for that session and will begin to hop between items in order to keep my brain from going on autopilot. Doing this will keep my session more efficient.
In short, when creating your practice schedule, set the amount of time you have first, then set an appropriate amount of items. If you feel that you are trying to work on too much at once, prioritize your list, and then work on those things in that order. You may need to alternate between items each day as well. If you find that you struggle in this area, then you may want to consider finding a guitar teacher that can help you.
Joshua LeBlanc is the owner and lead instructor at Lafayette School of Guitar specializing in guitar lessons in Lafayette, LA.