One of the main challenges as we learn the guitar is finding a consistent time to practice. For those of you that only have 15-30 minutes a day, here are 5 things that will help ensure you are spending it productively.
Make a Plan and Stick To It! - This might sound like common sense, but so often, I would start practicing, play a few scales, move on to some exercises I couldn't play and after a few minutes, very quickly fell into playing things I already could play. It felt good, so I was drawn there. Because I didn't plan out my practice time to the minute, I missed out on getting to advanced techniques quicker.
Spend Most of Your Time on Things You CAN'T Play Yet - You might be thinking, "Andrew, I want to enjoy playing the guitar, not always be frustrated and feel like I can't play," and if that is what you think I'm right with you. There is nothing that will deflate the ego more than listening to yourself continuously play things that seem impossible and don't sound good. But... Let me share a little secret. The players that make this a habit sound great every time they play. What they think is their worst performance still sounds amazing to the audience. Learn to love the challenge of what you can't yet play, and it will change the way you sound.
Focus On What You Want to Sound Like - When you are practicing, it's important to have a vision of what you want to sound like. Every time you pick, strum or fret the guitar strive for something that you don't have now. Focus on what you want to sound like and compare that to what you actually sound like. Again it's another hit for the ego, but it will get you sounding the way you want much faster. For instant feedback, record and listen to yourself ALWAYS!
Find Your Voice Through Your Influences - Do you have a favorite drummer? Mine is Vinnie Calaiuta. Favorite bass player?, and yes, favorite guitarist?. Find the musicians you love and copy everything they do. This is the secret to finding your own voice.
Find a Guitar Mentor / Coach - This is the most important. Find someone who you can trust to guide you to the things you need to learn. I'm not talking about taking 'guitar lessons' at your local music store. You may luck out and find a great mentor there, but that is challenging. Here are some things to look for.
- Has a plan and encourages you to set and work towards realistic goals and knows what to do when it gets hard because it will.
- Understands the importance of guitarists becoming musicians
- Has a deep understanding of the guitar and music and experience performing
- Their students sound great***
- Gives you access to a community of like-minded guitarists to help when it gets tough.
Those are a few things that have helped me get the most out of your practice time. I hope you are able to use them when you practice.