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
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
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.
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.
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: