Sometimes, it can be increasingly difficult to find time to spend doing what we love. Life simply gets in the way. Even as a full time guitar tutor I don’t have the kind of time for practice that a lot of people may assume I do. I spend a lot of time planning schedules, catch up lessons, responding to emails, taking care of my accounts and generally running my business. Sure, I learn a lot of stuff throughout the week in the form of lesson preparation, but none of this equates to me actually getting round to sitting down with my guitar and working on the things which I feel I want and probably need to.
For reasons like this it is vastly important for us to make the most use that we can out of whatever time we can afford to our practice sessions. One thing that I believe is key to this is balance. There are so many things for us to practice and so many areas in which we can stretch our playing and understanding of our chosen instrument. That is why I believe it is important to plan your practice and ensure that you cover as much ground as is possible or necessary to you at that time.
Now, I can’t give you a practice session to follow, as it would not reflect the goals that you have set for yourself personally. But I can at least attempt to give you some pointers on how you can make better use of your time.
Firstly, assign actual days and times in which you can definitely practice for a specific time and stick to it. Don’t simply say to yourself “I will get round to working on that this week” as it will likely not happen. Make sure that those Practice sessions are balanced between working on stuff that will further your understanding and technique, and making use of the understanding and technique that you already have down.
Second, understand that it is ok to work on different things on different days. Your practice session doesn’t have to be one all encompassing list of material for you to get through by the end. Spreading your work out across several different sessions will allow you to focus more on individual subjects instead of blasting through them in order to get to the next element of your schedule in time.
Thirdly, whilst it is important to strive to be a well-rounded musician, it is also important to build your schedule around the goals and targets you have set yourself at the time. There is no point in spending a large amount of time learning to sight read if your current aim is to improve your improvisational skills. You may have an upcoming audition or exam, in which case you should try to build your schedule around preparing for that.
Here are some further thoughts that may help with practice and general improvement.
- Make sure that your guitar is out and ready to play, not tucked away in its case out of sight and far from your thoughts.
- Be realistic about the amount of time and regularity with which you can practice, and then plan accordingly.
- Try to keep sessions regular. Several shorter sessions spread throughout the week is probably better than one monster session on a Sunday for example.
- Write small exercises when you are away from your instrument, in a small notebook on your lunch break for example.
- Don’t fall into the trap of simply practicing or playing the stuff that you are good at. Push at your boundaries and pay attention to your weak areas.
- Try to make your practice session a balanced one. Allow time for simply playing and enjoying the instrument rather than swotting up on theory or focusing on technique the entire time.
- Make sure you have enough tea or coffee to get you through the session!
- Researching other players and styles of music through such things as YouTube is in my opinion, a valid tool for self-improvement and a great way to learn new tricks, licks and approaches to playing and general musicianship.
- Don’t shy away from difficult pieces or techniques. Everything is achievable given enough time, patience and the correct approach.