Micro-Practice for Big Results
We’re all busy. Even my young students are more busy than I am. Sometimes work and life get in the way of guitar practice. But what if we could spend 15 focused minutes and still get something done?
Micro-practice sessions are super short practice sessions. When I think of them I think of 15 minutes or less. That’s it. What can we get done in fifteen minutes?! A lot I’d say. But it depends on the person and how focused they can remain.
For the past week I’ve been experimenting with micro-practice sessions. I wanted to push the limits and see how efficient I could really be. Within the first few days I learned some things about my own practicing.
When life gets busy, try micro-practice sessions to keep up and even improve your playing. Here’s some tips to make the more effective.
Begin With a Goal in Mind
You don’t have five or ten minutes to figure what you need to work on. Begin with a goal in mind. This can be anything: “Work measures 9-12 using a specific practice technique” or “play the melody alone in measure 9-12, then put it back with the other stuff.”
Anything is fair game. Just begin with a goal in mind, don’t try to figure it out during the session.
Before you sit down to practice, get your music out. Prepare everything you need to practice–for me that means getting out my “arm sock” and getting my guitar case opened up and ready to roll. The 15 minutes or less you spend sitting down to practice should be for practice alone. Don’t mess with music or trying to find something.
- Set a Timer
The first few times I did a micro-practice session I was looking at the clock the whole time. Not good. With such a short interval of practice, there’s no time to look around. A simple kitchen timer works wonders. I’ve been using the timer on my microwave. Set it, stop when it goes off.
- Track Yourself
Keep a practice log. Did what you did during the practice session help? Write it down, and include thoughts about what else you could try. Keep track of what parts or specific musical things are giving your trouble. This serves not only to track what works, but provide you with specific goals to accomplish during the next practice session (see number 1). This should be done after every practice session.
As I did more micro-practice sessions, I was able to fine tune my practice log to include tasks which were doable in fifteen minutes. It’s not the same as a longer practice session.
- Know When to Stop
Sometimes we get really into practicing a passage and time slips away. It takes an incredible amount of discipline to stop after three or four repetitions. If it helps to write down a specific number of times to go through a goal, do it. The important thing is to not get so caught up in playing a single thing. Especially considering that the longer one practice something the more time he/she is likely to make mistakes. We’ve all been at the point where something was perfect, then we kept practicing and it just went down hill. Aim to practice perfect a 4-7 times and be done with it.
Next time you get busy, try out some micro-practice!
Chris, it’s amusing but that’s how my practice routine has evolved after reading the advice in your previous posts. My log is now broken into 15-minute and even 10-minute tracking blocks.
And I even got a specific Casio watch with preset timers!
Great blog today Chris! Thanks.
Hello Chris, really helpful information, especially on micro practice and practice logs.
One question about micro practice, something I have already explored on the CG Forum.
Which is, what about warm up? Especially if one has small hands as I do, I find I have to work a bit to get a decent stretch both up the fretboard and for the 3rd and fourth finger on the 6th and 2nd strings, same fret, very common position in CG. If I don’t warm up I don’t make it and I am afraid of forcing and injury.
One responder suggested warming up once a day is fine.
What do you think?
I think as long as you do a thorough job warming up, once a day is fine. Even when I’m doing micro practice sessions I do a half hour session at the start of the day which includes warm ups and technique for both hands.
Another strategy would be to put easier music at the start of the practice day, warming up your hands as you progress. Or maybe doing a longer morning warm up and then running your hands under warm water for each other practice session.