As you probably already know, mastering the guitar (or any other instrument or skill) takes time.
But there's a trick to it.
Let me give you two scenarios.
Jess (hypothetical, not a real student) has been attending her guitar lessons every week for a year, but does no practice at home.
Rebecca (again hypothetical) has been attending her guitar lessons for 6 months, but she has practice for 5 minutes every day.
Who do you expect will be a better player?
All things being equal, the answer is Rebecca 9/10 times.
So what's the trick?
Find small pockets of time to practice, every single day.
Not every second day. Not a 6 hour marathon session every Sunday. Small sessions. Every day.
Here's how to make this simple concept a part of your daily routine.
I'd love to practice more, but I'm too busy!
There are, for most people, about 6 hours available that not taken up by work/school, transit and sleep every day.
To think of that another way, there are 36 x 10 minute blocks you'll have free each day.
You may only have 30 (maybe 10 if you have young kids). Or maybe you're lucky and have 40. It doesn't matter, because you only need one 10 minute block per day.
You can keep the other 35 for family time, sport, TV, stargazing, whatever you want, but this one 10 minute block needs to be exclusively set aside for you to practice your guitar.
Think you can do it? Of course you can! You can find 10 minutes anywhere in a day.
But what can I really get done in 10 minutes?
If you plan out your practice time, a whole lot.
Let's say your goals for the week are to:
- Memorise the Minor Pentatonic pattern
- Learn to play your favourite song; Disarm by The Smashing Pumpkins (not my favourite song btw - this is just an example)
Here's what your 10 minutes of practice time will look like:
- Warmup playing the minor pentatonic scale. Yeah, you'll probably spend the first day or two just trying to remember the pattern, but you will slowly but surely get faster and more fluent as the week goes on, which will (bonus!) mean you can play through the scale more times per day as you get better.
- Play through one section of your song (Intro, Verse, or Chorus). Monday and Tuesday you might work on the intro, Tuesday and Wednesday the verse, Friday and Saturday the chorus and then put it all together on Sunday.
So, with just 10 minutes each day, you will have:
- Learnt a scale
- Learnt a song
- Put in 70 minutes of guitar practice
How easy is that? Well, actually, it requires a bit of discipline.
For example (and I am just as guilty of this as anyone), if you start on the scale, get distracted and play that for the full 10 minutes, you'll miss out on half of your goals.
So, set a timer and be strict.
If, after the 10 minutes, you want to keep playing and you've got the time to do it, by all means, keep working on whatever you'd like.
Just make sure you spend your initial 10 minutes wisely!
How do I know if it's working?
If you're finding your 10 minute sessions are getting easier each day, you're doing well.
In general, I would always advise mixing up your 10 minute practice sessions at the end of each week. That doesn't mean you have to stop working on a song, for example, but it does mean you should start working on the next section of it, or work on a specific technique within it to make sure you're pushing yourself.
When in doubt, ask your teacher if you are doing too much or too little in your 10 minute sessions.
A great way to personally track your progress is to film yourself playing at the end of each week (or audio record yourself if that's easier), taking note of what you did all week and how well you can play it.
You'll be surprised how much improvement you'll notice when you look back at older recordings!
Bonus: Practice Tips That Will Also Help
- Try to schedule your guitar practice for the same time each day during the week to make it part of your routine
- Don't allow any distractions during practice time
- Setup your own space for guitar practice
- Do your research and prep before hand - have your notes and sheet music ready to go
- TV Ad breaks can be a great time for micro practice sessions - especially for very short scales and licks
- Keep your guitar out and visible so you can get in extra practice time whenever you get a spare minute (Warning: I have lost hours at a time by picking up a guitar as I walk past it and getting lost in it - make sure to plan accordingly!)
What if I want to do more than 10 minutes?
Fantastic. All the same principles apply, but you'll improve even faster.
The catch however, is not to trade daily practice sessions for longer, more sporadic practice sessions.
So keep the practice daily, and feel free to slowly extend it.
Alternatively, if you're really busy during the week but have more time on the weekend, do 10 minute sessions during the week and reward yourself with an hour session on Saturday and Sunday (that's a great time to work on really off topic stuff, like a whole new song, different genres, extra fun techniques etc).
Sound easy? It is! It just requires a little bit of planning and commitment.
One final point - don't be too hard on yourself if you miss a day of practice for a good reason.
When you slip up, move on and look forward to your practice tomorrow!