Guitar practice and spreading yourself too thinly

Time, our most valuable resource

Music is a vast subject with many different styles and areas of study. Time is a limited resource that very few of us feel we ever have enough of. How can we make the best use of the time we have with regard to guitar practice?

Having a well-structured guitar practice regime helps enormously to keep you focused on specific skills and tasks that you want to master (if you don’t have one yet click here for a free copy of my ebook ‘How to revolutionise your guitar practice). Even this, though, can be misused. When you’re feeling particularly inspired, you might make an ambitious list of the many areas that you want to master and draw up an equally ambitious guitar practice schedule.

You might end up with something like this:

  • 10mins alternate picking exercise
  • 10mins sweep picking arpeggios
  • 10mins mpent shape 3 rock licks practice
  • 10mins working on major ii-V-I licks
  • 10mins jazz comping in various styles
  • 10mins aural practice of recognising intervals
  • 10mins sight reading in key of B
  • 10mins learning that solo I really like
  • etc…

Admirable though this list of tasks is, it’s unlikely to be an effective use of time.

There is a mental gearshift that takes place when we move from one task to another and it takes time to properly settle into a new one. Some tasks in particular take more time to ‘get into’ than others. Imagine studying maths in 10 minutes classes every day. It would be endless recapping and snail’s pace progress…

Budgeting practice time properly

Guitar practice timeI once heard an interview with the great jazz pianist Bill Evans in which he said that it is better to practice one tune for 24 hours than 24 tunes for one hour each. This has got to be good advice and it applies as much to areas of musical study as it does to jazz standards.

Whatever style of music you are interested in, try to have just two or three substantial tasks in your practice regime and dig deep into them, rather than dipping your toe into too many different pools.

Thirty minutes each night spent fully focussed on a specific technique issue, and another thirty spent using a small number of ii-V-I licks in a variety of keys and scenarios, will produce far greater results than the highly fragmented approach above.

This is good for morale and will help motivate you to do further practice and maintain a successful guitar practice regime. If you have doubts, try it for a week and see the results for yourself.


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