10 ways to maximize your practice time

  • Have a dedicated space

       It doesn't have to be fancy, just a comfy chair and a music stand, just 

       make sure the space tells you it's time to practice and try to practice

       consistently in the same place if possible.

 

  • Make it easy to access your instrument

     ​  If your guitar or piano is buried under a stack of books, or hidden in a

       closet, you are a lot less likely to practice than if it's readily accessible. One

       of my practice "secrets" is that I keep at least one guitar within arm's reach

       at all times. That way if I have 2 minutes I can quickly grab it and practice

       something I'm working on. Those two minutes add up quick.

 

  • Have a goal.

       When you start your practice session try to have a clear idea of what it is

        that you are trying to accomplish during that session. That will keep your

        practice focused on the goal and less likely to derail into just a jam

        session, or worse just playing the same old things you have already

        mastered.

 

  • Avoid distractions

      Devices like phones and tablets can be a great aid during practice, but

      they can also be the very thing that keeps you from practicing. During

      practice try to keep distractions to a minimum by putting your phone on

      silent, and if you must keep the phone by you, try to at least commit to

      short, uninterrupted practice intervals before you check it. More on that

      below.

 

  • Make sure your warm up has musical value

       Instead of warming up and THEN practice your scales, why not use scale

       patterns as a warm up? How about interval skips? Or harmonic intervals?

       How about playing chord sequences as a warm up? Or arpeggio runs?

       You get the idea. Instead of using warm ups to play mindlessly, try to check

       as many musical boxes as you can and maximize that time as well.

  • Record yourself

     ​This one is HUGE! I recommend this to my students all the time and the

      results are outstanding! It's common to get so absorbed in the difficulty of

      playing the instrument that you have no room left to listen and evaluate your

      own performance. Vocalists already do this, but I submit that

      instrumentalists can benefit greatly from recording themselves and 

      listening to their performances afterward. You'll be surprising how insightful

      (and accurate!) the advice and critique you give yourself after you listen.

  • Make notes in your music

      If you are working from a score or a lead sheet, make sure to write margin

      notes with any questions, observations, or even suggestions your teacher

      might have made. So when you go back to it in the practice room, you

      won't  have to worry about remembering everything.

  • Keep track of your progress

      You can make this as granular or as simple as you need. You can keep

       track of bpm settings on a metronome in a particular piece, the number of

       voicings of a particular chord you have facility with, your scale vocabulary,

       etc. Keeping track of your progress will allow you to steer your practice in

       the right direction and set realistic goals for each session.

  • Structure your practice in 10 min increments

       ​This is another golden nugget. You can find 10 minutes all throughout the

       day, and if you have an instrument available you can practice for just 10

       minutes. However, even if you have 2 hours to practice, I would still

       structure the session in 10 minute intervals. It's a lot easier to maintain

       focus for just 10 minutes, so you can really dial in a task like practicing a

       ii-V-I phrase or a tricky passage in a piece, and then move on to the next

       task. Returning to the original task later, if needed.

 

  • Reward yourself.

      We all like rewards. I'm not saying go buy yourself a new car because you

      practiced for one day, but there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to

      something small and enjoyable. In my heavy metal days, I would just crank

      the amp and play something cool and loud. It really doesn't matter how you

      reward yourself. Just make a habit of it and soon, you'll be looking forward

      to each practice session.

Now, here is the video where Lon and I discuss which is the best guitar you should start with:

Sheet Music

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