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How to practice guitar #2

How to practice guitar #2
Cliff
How to practice guitar - Cliff Smith Guitar Lessons London

I wasn’t happy with my previous blog, ‘How to practice guitar’. It was OK but I felt that it was incomplete. So here is ‘How to practice guitar #2’!

How often should I practice guitar?

Let’s look at schedules. A very common question that I am asked is “How often should I practice guitar?”. This really depends on your goals and your ability. An hour a day is good for the average player, more if you can.

How long should a beginner practice guitar for?

As a total beginner you may struggle to practice for an hour straight, as your fingertips, wrist or hand may hurt too much. You could break up your guitar practice into two 30 minute sessions, perhaps one in the morning and one in the evening.

I’m playing guitar for five hours a day and my hands hurt!

If you are studying for an exam, practicing for a gig or trying to seriously improve your technique, speed, reading etc then you’ll probably find that an hour a day isn’t enough. You may end up with quite a few things to practice and end up doing 3 or more hours per day. This is where it gets serious! You can’t jump into a schedule like this. You need to gradually build up practice times.

Take guitar practice breaks!

You need to take breaks, and move around every hour. This will help to stop you getting a stiff neck/bad back etc. It is also good to clear your head. How many times have you sat there and played something wrong/badly, over and over again? Wouldn’t it be better to put the guitar down, make a cup of tea and come back with a clear head? You won’t want to repeat those mistakes anymore! You’ll either figure out a way of playing it better (which is pretty much always achieved by slowing it down!), or realise that it is beyond your current ability.

Am I practicing too quickly?

If you are practicing something that is too difficult for you and you keep making mistakes, SLOW IT DOWN! You may need to play it at half speed to be able to get everything right (notes, rhythm, articulation) – that’s fine, as long as it sounds good. Using a metronome is great for this. If you are learning a song, you could slow the original recording down using Amazing Slow Downer or something similar and play along with it.

Am I practicing too slowly?

Maybe it’s too easy and your thoughts are wandering as you play? PLAY IT FASTER! If you have that scale nailed, then take it to the next level! Get the metronome out and add 10 beats per minute to your easy tempo. Can you still play it? Add 10 more! Keep going until you find a tempo that you can’t play at, then go back to the previous one and practice there. You will have found your technique threshold for that exercise. Write the tempo down in your practice book (you have one, right?) so that you know where to start next time.

Break up your practice routine

Let’s say that you are trying to get into music college. They sent you the entry requirements and you are way off! You decide to do the following every day:

  • 1 hour of scales/arpeggios
  • 1 hour building up your chord knowledge
  • 1 hour of improvisation
  • 1 hour of sight reading
  • 1 hour of aural
  • 1 hour learning songs/pieces

I’m not saying that this is a good practice routine! It’s just an example of what I’ve seen pupils attempt… For most people, the above is going to be too much. What you could do is:

Monday

  • 1 hour of scales/arpeggios
  • 1 hour of improvisation

Tuesday

  • 1 hour of aural
  • 1 hour building up your chord knowledge

Wednesday

  • 1 hour of sight reading
  • 1 hour learning songs/pieces

Thursday

  • 1 hour of scales/arpeggios
  • 1 hour of improvisation

Friday

  • 1 hour of aural
  • 1 hour building up your chord knowledge

Saturday

  • 1 hour of sight reading
  • 1 hour learning songs/pieces

Sunday

  • Day off or just play for fun

Once you get through a week of that, you’ll have a much better idea of your capabilities. You may discover that your chord playing is great but your aural sucks. Then you could drop a chord session and add in an aural. After a couple of weeks you may be ready to increase the practice time to 2.5 hours per day, then you could work up to three a fortnight later.

Evaluate, re-evaluate, evolve…

The main thing is not to get stuck in a rut. Keep tweaking the routine and mixing it up. If you are really hating one aspect of your guitar practice routine then drop it for a week and replace it with something fun. You can always come back to it. But you probably wont!

I hope that this has been of use to you. Please leave a comment if you have a question or have something to add.

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