The Path to True Guitar Mastery
How do you currently practise the guitar? Do you have a set routine?
WARNING: In this article, I’m going to share with you some of the secrets behind a balanced, and effective guitar practise routine. This is what I use, myself, and it really gets results.
I’ll also show you how it can work for you, too.
However, the catch is that you have to be consistent. Half an hour, once a week, will not be enough. Are you committed enough to set aside practise time every day? At least half an hour?
You may argue that a set routine every day can be boring- and you’d mostly be right…
Nobody is saying that you have to do exactly the same thing each day, just that you need to do something. If this means that you plan yourself out a weekly schedule and practise a different thing each day, then do that.
Whatever keeps you interested.
I prefer to have a set routine (or two) for weekdays, and then something different on weekends- but it’s up to you. Just stay consistent!
How Long to Practise
In the Ebook ‘Ready to Rock 2’, you would have read about one way to create a balanced practise routine. This is the technique that I still use today, as it gets good results!
If you haven’t yet downloaded the Ebook, just fill in the form at the bottom of this article (it’s totally free!).
Just remember: the longer you practise for, the more you’ll get out of it. Half an hour a day should be enough to see results (i.e. about the length of an episode of ‘The Simpsons’…). However, if you’re really dedicated you can practise a lot more- just don’t make my mistake and do too much!
…right…so how much is too much?
I usually find about two hours to be a good limit. If your hand (or your brain) doesn’t start to ache after this long, then you’re probably not doing enough. Remember, I’m talking about focused practise time here, not total playing time.
Have you ever studied something for over two hours straight each day, without a break? It’s not an easy thing to do!
Feel free to actually play your guitar for longer (if you really want). That’s fine. This is really just a limit for focused, and structured study.
The Basic Routine
As I outlined in the Ebook, I recommend splitting your practise routine into three main sections:
- Warm-up (or technique)
- Theory (including songs, new chords and scales etc.)
- Playtime (improvisation, or whatever you like)
I recommend keeping each of these sections fairly short. Again, how long can you really stay 100% focused on each thing? I like to divide my routine up further, into 20 or 30 minute sections. I find this a good amount of time to get stuff done.
If you’re only planning on practising for half an hour a day, then you could make each section 10 minutes long. It’s up to you. The point is that there are three sections.
Also in the Ebook, I talk about setting targets to work towards. This step is essential, as if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
In order to really get the most out of this, I’m going to need you to do something. You need to write down everything that you’re not so good at on guitar.
Be specific! The more specific you can be, the better.
It’s no good saying something like “I suck because I can’t play like Joe Satriani”. This may be true enough, but it won’t help you to get there! Something more helpful would be: “I suck at hammer-ons and pull-offs”.
NOW we have something actionable! Instead of a vague idea of why you suck, you have something to practise- a topic. Now you can go and find some exercises for hammer-ons and pull-offs.
The absolute best way to find out where you suck is to try to play songs. After all, this is all about the music, right? As soon as you find something in a song that you can’t do well, write that down. This will be a new thing to practise.
Actually, it goes much deeper than this. Why do your pull-offs suck? Do they sound messy, or are they not sounding at all? Why? Are you going out of time, or can’t you play fast enough? Why?
The more specific you can get, the better!
Don’t get me wrong, I suck at some things, too- everybody does. There are always going to be things that you want (or need) to improve. The day you stop practising is the day you stop playing.
For example, this section of my own routine currently includes:
- Sight Reading
- Chord Knowledge
- New Pieces and Songs
- Aural Skills and Transcription
…and I may change that in future. I’m always adding new things, and taking away old things that I’ve already improved. Of course, some things have to be practised to stay current!
The sections here are spread over two days.
So, for each thing that you suck at, create a subsection of your routine. You can then spread this out over more than one day, depending on how much time you have. In a 30 minute routine, you could practise something different each day for the second 10 minutes.
That gives you at least seven things each week that you could practise in this time.
Making a Plan
For my own routine, I have a solid plan for each of those sections. For example, when I’m practising Aural Skills, I find a song to transcribe. I’ve also got a program that generates random intervals for me to guess (you can find that here, if you’re interested).
I also then either practise the songs that I’ve transcribed, or I have some books with written music in. That’s the ‘new pieces’ section covered.
So, I have a specific plan for each section; you should, too!
In the final section of the practise routine, we’re bringing together what we’ve learnt from the first two sections. Your fingers are nicely exercises and warmed up, and you’ve done your studying. Now it’s time to have a jam!
The third section of my own routine is what I use to improvise to backing tracks. Whatever else I want to do that doesn’t fit in the above categories. This part is really up to you- as long as you’re working on something.
So, my challenge to you is to create a practise routine similar to this one. Start out by figuring out where you suck (by playing songs etc.). Then translate this into a real, actionable practise routine following these guidelines.
If you can do that and stick with it for a few weeks, I guarantee you’ll see improvement in your playing!