Practice Routines

One of the most common subjects I’m asked in my Surrey/Langley in-person guitar lessons practise is that of practice routines.  As a recording artist, performer, and teacher, I myself have gone thru many different phases of practice regimes and habits.  Many guitar students want to know how much time they should spend practicing, what they should specifically practice.  With the guitar, and music in general, being such a vast, never-ending pursuit, it can be very easy to become overwhelmed with even the simple notion of developing an effective practice routine.  Truthfully, the process of developing an effective practice routine is an individualized one, and will vary by the student’s age, goals, musical preferences, and lifestyle.  For example, most mature students or students who have families will not have as much time to dedicate to their instrument as a high-school aged student.  Not to worry – the reality is, with a little careful planning and hard work, everyone can make progress on their instrumental goals – even if they are severely limited in time or resources.  Here are some key points to consider regarding practice routines:

  • The first point I wish to make, is that the most important and effective trait in improving as a musician, is a strong desire to play an instrument and a passion for music.  Even if a musician who is learning how to play has a practice routine that is not perfectly constructed, if the desire and passion are present, the player will make progress.  They will likely not progress as quickly as one who possesses the same enthusiasm but has been mentored to craft an effective routine, however.
  • Working with a qualified guitar teacher to outline the scale and scope of you or your child’s musical goals, is instrumental in both their material progress and self-esteem.  A qualified teacher can quickly identify a student’s goals and stylistic preferences, and carefully select the concepts, techniques, and areas of musical knowledge that the student will need to learn to become competent in their preferred style – as opposed to attempting to learn every guitar technique under the sun, and quickly becoming overwhelmed and even discouraged or pessimistic about their own ability .  An excellent quote from the great Greg Howe – “Listen to your favourite guitar players – Pat Metheny, Yngwie Malmsteen or B.B. King, whoever they are – and you’ll notice that they don’t have a lot of stuff that they do. They have a few things that they do but they’ve mastered. Any guitar player is going to always sound much much better if he masters seven or eight concepts, than he will if he has fifty things sort of half-there.”*
  • Make the best of the time and resources that are available to you.  The fact is, a half-hour or even fifteen minutes of effective practice can do a lot for a student’s development.  I have had students who work in very demanding professions, and have less than an hour a week on average to practice.  I have also had very ambitious students who are keen too dedicate hours each day to practicing their craft.  A good routine and evaluation takes each individual student’s goals, musical preferences, and available resources into careful consideration, and sets them on the fast-track to playing the music they want to play.
  • Seek a guitar teacher who can make learning enjoyable.  Although there are certainly quick improvements to be had in learning guitar, especially when first starting guitar lessons, achieving musical goals takes time and it’s very important that the student enjoys the process thoroughly so that they remain motivated.  One of my favorite ways to ensure this remains the case, is provide the student with plenty of real-life musical examples based on styles they personally enjoy (tailored to their skill level) so that even as they make great strides in their playing, they never have to stop playing the music they love for their enjoyment.

I hope these points have started you thinking on how a practice routine might be helpful to you or your child’s musical progress!

*Ketikidi, I. (2011, April 14).  Interview with Greg Howe. Retrieved from http://blog.live4guitar.com.

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