Get In Tune
The very first thing that you should do when you pick your guitar is to tune it. Let’s face it, an out of tune guitar can sound horrendous. Do yourself and use a quality tuner to check your guitar’s tuning at the beginning and throughout your practice sessions.
Set A Schedule
It’s up to you to figure out when to practice and for how long. Ideally, you should have at least 2 hours per week of structured practice. You could do two practice sessions per week, at an hour apiece, or you could split it up into 20 minutes practice sessions on 5 days of the week.
Always Be Learning
Your practice routine will be a balance of physical and mental. In other words, a balance of playing guitar and understanding what you are playing. If you spend all of your time working on your chops then you find yourself caught in an endless loop. Too many guitarists spend only 6 months learning new things and then the next 10 years recycling the things they learned in those first 6 months. Good musicians are always learning. No one ‘knows it all’.
The 5 Minute Rule
It’s a good idea to play a little every day. That doesn’t mean that you have to sit down and have a structured practice session every day. It only means’ hands on the instrument’ even if it’s only a dismal 5 minutes. Play something from your previous practice session. Maybe you’ll find 5 minutes in the morning or 5 minutes right before you go to bed, just get your hands on that instrument at least once a day. You might not think much can be done in only 5 minutes, but this daily contact will compound with time allowing you to see a marked improvement. You’re also less likely to fall out of touch with the instrument. We’ve all had those days where we sit down to play only to realize our hands aren’t doing what we want them to or we suddenly can’t remember how playthings.
Keep A Record
No you old-timers, I’m not talking about vinyl. I’m talking about keeping a journal of your progress and possibly some recordings from your practice sessions. With Practice Club we will be working towards both and short term goals. Your journal should list your goals and keep track of your progress towards these goals. At the end of each practice session spend a minute writing down exactly what you did and work on. Just a paragraph or two will suffice. Periodically you’ll be able to review your journal and evaluate your progress. There may be things you may have neglected and the journal will help to shed light on this. Also, if you have the means, try recording audio from some of your practice sessions. Make a note of what you record in your journal. Periodically go back and record the same material or something comparable. Listen to the recordings from time to time. You’ll be amazed to hear the progress, but you’ll also begin to hear mistakes and problem areas that you could improve on.
Don’t Skip The Hard Stuff
Concentrate on your weaknesses. Don’t spend most of your practice time on the areas that you would consider your strengths. Take the time to make your weaknesses strong, too. If you come across something that you do not understand don’t skip it and go onto something else. Don’t get frustrated if you are working on a song and can’t quite get it right and then stop practicing it altogether. You may not see an improvement overnight, but you will see improvement eventually. If you’re having problems learning to play something or understanding concepts, don’t beat yourself up. Stay the course, you’ll eventually get there.
Don’t Overdo It
If you start to feel too much discomfort in your hands and/or fingers from practicing you may want to take a break or wait until the next day to continue. Over time the muscles in your hands will develop to the point where they won’t cramp as much, and your fingertips will develop hard calluses.