When it comes to playing guitar, nothing is more important to learning and making progress than practice. Now, whether you are teaching yourself to play or taking guitar lessons, practice can seem like an ugly word that turns playing an instrument into a chore, but at the end of the day, how often you do it and how you approach it can make or break whether or not you gain any traction in playing music.
The thing is, having a solid guitar practice routine is pretty straightforward. Here's exactly what it should look like in a nutshell: everyday for a set time, practice things on the instrument that you can't do, be patient and have faith that the work you put in today will pay off tomorrow.
This means that you have to find an amount of time that works for you, have a plan for what you're going to focus on in your session and also build the kind of mentality that can handle the everyday grind of guitar practice.
Here's how to do it.
Having a good practice routine starts with identifying your goals because there are a lot of levels to playing guitar.
If your goal is to be a serious, working musician, then you need to practice a lot. In fact, most working musicians that you'll come across probably started out by playing 8-10 hours a day for years in their younger days and then switched to about 1-4 hours a day as they got older.
But these are the kind of people to whom practicing their instrument is simply their passion, and there's probably nothing else in the world that gives them the same joy.
Playing music, though, doesn't have to lead to making money or even being that good of a player. There are plenty of people who are really good at other things but love the idea of playing music to unwind while enjoying the process of learning something new.
To achieve this level of playing you can get pretty far with only a minimal amount of practice, and realistically, most people start to really hit their stride with the instrument after about 20 total hours.
So, step one in making a good practice plan? Decide if you're trying to make money or if you're just doing it for the fun of it.
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Once you figure what your goals are, you can then decide how much time you have to dedicate to the guitar.
If you're working toward being a serious musician, then practicing simply needs to become one of the top priorities in your life. You shouldn't have to be told how much time to practice — two hours should be able to fly by in an instant.
But even those people who simply want to learn to play guitar for fun still need to make a commitment to the instrument. In fact, a bulletproof guitar practice routine starts with building the habit of playing every single day.
See, the truth is, consistency is more important than the length of time you can dedicate on a daily basis. This is especially true for people who are busy with more important things, such as their jobs, their children or other hobbies.
The thing about playing guitar though, is it's a lot of muscle memory-oriented actions, and going too long without doing them when you're first starting out leads to your muscles not remembering how to do them. This is problem because it makes getting back on track after a missed practice session more difficult.
And when getting back on track is difficult, it often leads to more missed sessions and ultimately quitting.
See, at the end of the day, people often have a lot of things competing not only for free time, but their energy as well, and as a result, it can be very easy to dismiss a personal interest in learning guitar with the notion that there's just not enough time. So, that's why committing to daily playing is crucial for beginner guitar players.
You wouldn't miss brushing your teeth, right? You should have the same sentiment about your practice session.
A common mistake that many beginner guitar players make is picking an arbitrary amount of time to practice that's simply too high for them to keep up. Sometimes, unfortunately, it's even because that's what their guitar teachers told them to do.
But the fact is, when you're not used to playing an instrument, even 10 minutes every day can seem like a big grind. Not to mention, when you're really busy with life stuff, finding that kind of time for something you might not yet be sure about can be difficult as well.
Essentially, you want to train yourself to get into the habit of doing it everyday, and it's perfectly okay to start out with a very small amount of time and then increase it as you outgrow it.
The best way to start building up your practice time is to pick an amount of time that you feel like you can do every single day. It's important at the beginning to be conservative because you can always increase it.
Younger children — even as old as 10 — might only be able to handle two minutes every day. But it's worth it because it builds the habit. Now, most adults can handle more, but if not, it's perfectly fine to start with two minutes. Just do it every day.
Then, everyday, set a timer for that length of time. When the timer goes off, you're officially done with your guitar practice. You're free to play more if you want, but don't feel like you have to. Also, any extra time you put into one session is simply extra time, it doesn't come from the next day's practice. Remember, it's all about consistency.
When you feel like you're outgrowing the amount of time you started with, increase it modestly. Work toward 30 minutes of practice a day.
When it comes down to it, if you're playing every single day, you're going to make some decent progress. But to make big strides on the instrument, you should focus your guitar practice routine around the skills that you have the most trouble with.
Now, that doesn't mean that your entire practice session should be devoted only to things that you're terrible at, but the truth is, you probably can't get much better at the things you're already good at, but you can sure improve the things you aren't.
A good way to divide your practice time is in fourths. Spend the first quarter tuning the guitar and warming up. Just get your fingers moving on the fretboard in some way.
Then, spend the second and third quarter working on things that need work. If you're having trouble with one of the basic guitar chords, such as F, and also need to practice how to strum well, then spend quarter two working on the F chord and quarter three on strumming.
For the last fourth of your practice session, play whatever makes you happy. In fact, every once in a while, treat yourself and use the whole session to play whatever you want to.
While most of having a good guitar practice routine centers around how often and how long to play for as well as what to do during it, it also takes approaching it with a healthy mindset and clear expectations.
So here it is as plain as possible: learning to play guitar is difficult, often frustrating and takes a lot of hard work.
See, most people who want to play guitar for fun, haven't really stopped to think about what's actually fun about guitar. They might have a vision that it's playing songs on the porch and maybe even having someone sing along.
But the reality is, getting to that point is a hard road. The truth is, it takes a lot of practicing things you can't do, and almost always, it takes weeks or even months before you can do them. Worse, there's never really that moment where one day you couldn't do something and then the next you could. Pretty much, one day you realize that you can perform the skill you were previously working on, only to be mired in whatever current thing you're working on.
If this process doesn't sound fun to you, well, the thing is, this is what most people consider the fun part of guitar — the challenges that come with learning it.
That means not only do you have to accept the fact that it's difficult in order to succeed, but also kind of enjoy all the adversity. Doing so takes a lot of patience as well as a willingness to be okay with failure, which happens on a daily basis. Playing guitar is really an act of perseverance and hopefully, love. But at the end of the day, most players will tell you it's completely worth the ride.
So, what does a good, solid guitar practice routine really look like? Let's say you've built up your time to about 12 minutes per day. For the first three minutes (set a timer), you're simply warming up and getting into the session. The next six minutes are spent on things that you need improvement on. The final three minutes is all yours and you can play whatever you want.
Now, the commitment to playing guitar everyday doesn't mean that you can never miss days. But, realistically, you shouldn't miss many. If you do happen to miss one, simply get back on track the next day. Don't worry about it and certainly, don't quit over it.
As you start your guitar practice routine, there are a few things you can do to make it easier to build your habit. The first thing is to create a space in your house or apartment that is setup for you to play. Obviously, the smaller your home, the harder this is, but it's not impossible. Just make sure you have a consistent place that you have easy access to where you can put your guitar and other learning materials.
If you do happen to have a closed off space that you can make your own, turn it into your own personal practice space, and set it up in a way that makes you want to be in there. This might include having some good mood lighting or even a television, as you can get in a lot of good practice during sporting events or even commercials.
Another great way to jumpstart your routine is to take some guitar lessons. The fact is, if you're paying to do something, you're more likely to stay accountable to your commitment. These days, many places offer online guitar lessons, so you don't even have to leave the confines of your practice space to take them.
Finally, one of the most underrated ways to stay on top of your guitar playing is to find ways to play with people who have more experience than you do. This beats guitar lessons because it's free, and also gets you out of your comfort zone. If you don't know musicians that you can play with, check out some of your local guitar stores, as many of them host various types of jams that bring people of all levels from all over the community.
Practicing doesn't have to be a chore. For a lot of people, a short amount of practice time everyday can be enough to keep them engaged. Plus, if you stick with it, the guitar might eventually wins win you over and get you playing more often. Contact us today if you are interested taking guitar lessons online or in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area.
This step-by-step guide starts from zero, so beginners can learn how to sing and play at the same time as quickly as possible. These are the basic instructions that should come with every new guitar, and it's what should be taught in every student's first guitar lesson as well.
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