Learn How The Pros Make The Most Of Every Second Of A Practise Session - 5 Simple Tricks
Should Your Practise Sessions Be Pre-Planned?
Yes. Absolutely. A practise session should be carefully designed to ensure you are constantly making improvements in multiple ares of your playing. Learning the guitar and getting the most out of your session means more than just playing the guitar. It involves stretches, warm ups, listening, analysing, transcribing, improvising and creating. How do we fit all of these things into one practise session? It seems a daunting task, which is why we have put together this guide of 5 simple tricks to ensure you are optimising your time.
How Long Should A Practise Session Last And How Frequent Should They Be?
Is it true that the more you practise the better you get? Well, yes and no. The most important thing is that practise sessions are frequent. Consistency is the key to improvement. Much better to spend 20 mins every single day, rather that 2 hours once a week. But how about 2 hours every day? Is that better? Yes it is. But only if those 2 hours are spent well. 20 mins of focussed practise can be better than 2 hours of mindless shredding. Your practise session should last as long as you are able to keep it focussed and effective. If your concentration starts to fade about 40 mins, then have a little break and do another 40 mins later on.
When Is The Best Time Of Day To Practise?
Many guitarists and musicians find that practising first thing in the morning is a great way to ensure a focussed and concentrated session. This is when your brain is most receptive and ready to engage is challenging tasks. That being said, late in the evening can often be a good time for creative practise. Many studies have shown the most creative hours of the day to be late at night. Therefore, it’s a question of what you are trying to achieve. In order to achieve your objectives, do you need to be able to focus on complicated concepts, or do you need to be able to feel creative and inventive?
Which brings me nicely onto the 1st simple trick to achieve an effective practise session:
What Are You Trying To Achieve? Make a list.
In order to achieve your goals, you first need to know what they are. First, think about what the difference is between your own playing, and the playing of your idols. What are they achieving that you are struggling with? This could be something simple or something very complicated. Perhaps they are playing more cleanly, quickly, sparsely, creatively. Perhaps they are using a technique that you have never seen before or don’t know how to execute. It can be great idea to watch some tutorial videos or book some lessons with a tutor in order to help you with understanding new topics.
Make a list of 3-5 topics that you wish to improve upon. Rome wasn’t built in a day and making a list that’s too long will mean you don’t have enough time or mental energy to complete any single area in depth. The topics should be reasonably specific. ‘Get better at guitar’ isn’t specific enough. The more specific your goal, the more effectively you will be able to focus on every little detail that allows you to achieve it. For example:
Changing between chords in open position
Using alternative picking to play 3 note per string major scales
Improvising in a blues style using the minor pentatonic
Improve the intonation of my 1/4 and 1/2 string bends
2. Think Specifically About How You Can Achieve These Goals:
Okay, awesome - we know what we want to achieve. But do we know how to achieve it? A blanket statement of ‘more practise’ usually isn’t sufficient. For each of your 3-5 goals, now write 3-5 ideas about how to achieve them. Some effective exercises are: learning some songs/licks by your favourite guitarists, researching or inventing warm up exercises that focus specifically on a certain technique, listening and analysing, playing along with backing tracks, watching tutorial videos or booking a lesson with an expert. These ideas should form a sub-routine that you have in place to practise each one of your main goals. Each day you should be completing each one of the sub-routines as part of your overall practise plan. More on this in the next section.
We all know that sometimes, practising can be difficult. We need to put in place a system of accountability to ensure we are making improvements regardless of how tired we are, what the weather is like, how busy we are or whether a new series of Brooklyn 99 has just been released onto Netflix.
A great way to do this is to invent a mini sub-routine. This is a routine of exercises that you will do each practise session whilst focussing on a specific topic. You should have a sub-routine for each of your 3-5 main goals. Tick them off as you go. A feeling of achievement and completion is key and you should be very proud of each one of those ticks - it means you are working hard and making progress towards your goals. It can also be great to include details of exactly what you achieved each session. Write it down so you can compare from day to day and week to week. If you are practising semi quaver strumming, how fast did you manage to get the metronome today? How many seconds did it take you to change from a D to a G chord? How many minutes did you manage to repeat your legato shred before your hand started to cramp up? When we can see tangible improvements, it helps motivate us to keep pushing further every day.
Here’s an example of a sub-routine aimed at one specific topic. You can adjust this template to suit your specific goals:
4. Review And Adapt:
After carrying out your routine for a week or so, take some time to review your progress. Have you achieved your goals? Are the exercises working for you? Should you be practising for more time? Or less time? Have you enjoyed the exercises? If you are finding the exercises boring, then change them. You can achieve your goals with a wide range of exercises.
After reviewing, you can adapt your routine. Optimisation isn't a one-time thing. It requires constant review and adaptation to ensure that you are always getting the most out of each session rather than just going through the motions. Maybe it’s time to move onto the next stage of difficulty. If you are now able to change from D to G with ease, how about G to C or Am to Em? If you are now able to shred groups of 5 semi quavers through the altered scale, how about groups of 7 through the half/whole diminished?
After repeating this for a series of weeks or months, perhaps you can also change your overall main goals. If you are now happy with your progress as a funk rhythm guitarist, how about jazz comping? If you are now happy with your legato shredding, how about hybrid picking?
Now that you have been practising effectively and making improvements in a few main areas, it’s time to think about making music. Exercises are great for improving upon specific areas of improvement, but we must remember why we started learning the guitar. It was to make music. So, time to contextualise. Use the chords you are now comfortable with to play along with your favourite song. Or better still, write a new song. Now you are able to execute a tight 16th note rhythm part, how about going to a local jam night and putting your skills to the test in a new environment?
There is no set time to move through each of these 5 steps. They can all run along side each other and after contextualising, you may wish to review and adapt, or you may wish to go back to step 1 and reconsider in even more detail what your goal is.
No matter what stage you are in your journey as a guitarist, we can all improve and we should all be thinking about how to do this most efficiently. If you are feeling stuck or in a rut, then perhaps booking some sessions and talking it through with an expert would help.
Why not try out this new way of practising for a few weeks and let us know how you’re getting on? You can email me at email@example.com
If you are interested in booking a guitar lessons with one of our experts, click here.
Enjoy Your Practise & Good Luck