Guitar Practice Schedules
There are several strategies in devising a practice schedule for yourself or for students. It’s generally agreed upon that guitarists should spend some time working on technique and repertoire–real music. too much time on technique leaves nothing much left for repertoire. And too much time focused specifically on rep may not leave enough time for a player to really focus on specific issues that affect their playing overall.
It’s a very delicate situation.
Determining your Distribution
How exactly should our time be divided then? I have no clue. to give you an idea I practice about three or four hours each day (six days/week) and spend roughly a half hour on technique related exercises.
It’s about experimentation, evaluation and logical thinking. If a person has only 1 hour to practice each day, it doesn’t make much sense for them spend 45 minutes (3/4ths!) of that time practice technical exercises. That’s the logical thinking portion. The other two aspects require some time.
Experiment with how much time is needed on a daily or weekly basis to improve. This is the first step: answering the question, “how much do I need to practice.” This will vary depending on your goals. A college student studying music is going to need to practice more than the hobby guitarist. That said, many so called “hobby or amateur” guitarists give professionals a run for their money in regards to practice efficiency, total time and practice techniques. In my mind the answer to, “How much should I practice?” should be pared with the question “how much CAN I practice?” Beginners should probably spend less time with the instruments as their hands adapt; I tell my younger students that it’s more important they pick up the guitar each day for 10-20 minutes than trying to practice for hours on end. For some it’s simply a time constraint thing.
Beyond the time question comes the,”what do I do?” This requires experimentation. I’ve found that about 30 minutes of technique (1/8th-1/6th of my total time) works well for me. Besides technique I work in thirty minute sessions on a given piece. This helps keep me fresh and also lets me stand up and walk a bit every half hour (which is great for posture, etc.). Every person will have an ideal way to practice, which may change as they develop, it’s just a matter of finding it.
Can’t Fix Everything…
…in one day. Often times players will feel as if there is never enough time to really get everything done–I feel like that. But I think the point most of us miss is that not everything can be fixed in one day. A given chord progression might take a week to get down using careful practice techniques. Sometimes having the restraint to know when to stop working on something is the key. A great indicator is if fatigue or additional/excess tension begins to creep into the hands. This too is a matter of personal preference. But just keep in mind that not everything gets done in one day. This is especially true when maintaining a larger amount of repertoire.
I have some questions about YOUR practicing:
- What sort of schedule do you use?
- Is your schedule time only or specific?
- Do you keep a practice log?
Let me know in the comments!
It’s a very tricky subject this one and my investigations into this area have been less than definitive 🙂 . The one thing we can say is that there is no one correct schedule that will fit you. If you copy the routine of someone else then you’re probably wasting some or all of your time. Working with an experienced teacher or player is the way to get your idea schedule.
Mike Saville’s last blog post..Bag Full Of Scales
I do keep a practice log. Like you, I work technique for 30 minutes, usually in two-15 minute sections. As for repertoire, I actually work in 15 day periods in which I break pieces down into weekly and daily goals and work toward that. Whew, a bit extensive to try to explain here.
I think your blog is spot on in terms of how to start thinking about your practice schedule. Very Interesting and useful. It’s an idea that we have supported at my website and it’s exactly why we developed our practice management software. to help serious players manage their time and routine selection.
John in Texas
Thanks for this piece on practice schedules. I have been questioning my approach for awhile, which has been very random. I have become a bit more focused, but this helps much.
As I am a ‘hobby’ guitarist I spend most of my time playing/learning repertoire, although I seem to spend a ridiculous amount of time learning pieces – it takes me ages to sort out the fingering and the shifts. I only include technique where identified as a limitation in my current repertoire – and then I tend to make exercises up based on the difficulties I encounter in the music. I do play scales and arpeggios to warm up occasionally.
The hardest thing I find is keeping existing pieces fluent, whilst trying to learn new pieces, they all seem to fall by the wayside, so I have nothing I can just play, but a lot that I am currently learning! I rarely set myself specific targets, but its usually very obvious what needs work!
In my experience, once I’ve done all I can do in one sitting for a difficult section, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping on it. Almost without fail, I’m better out of the gate the next day than my best was the day before.
I found that trying Steve Vai’s 30-hour guitar workout is very inspirational. I bet you can find it somewhere on the internet.