Sometimes it can be hard to know how to get the most out of your practice time. There is so much to learn about music and your particular instrument that it can be overwhelming on where to start. However, having good practice techniques can greatly increase the productivity of your practicing and fast track you're learning. Here are some tips to get the most out of your practice time!
Have a Clear Goal
Without a clear goal in mind it is easy to just end up noodling around or playing songs you know over and over. Whenever you sit down to practice have a clear goal in mind (Examples: learn/practice new chords, learn a new lick, memorize a key or scale, improve right hand technique, etc.)
DON’T JUST PRACTICE SONGS! Playing an instrument is about more than just knowing how to play songs, its about understanding how your instrument works. Try practicing various techniques (finger patterns, scales, slides, bends, hammer-ons, arpeggios, etc.) to make sure that you are developing well rounded playing.
Think through how music works. Knowing how to play chords is great but if you don’t connect that to your knowledge of music then you are going to have trouble applying what you know to learning, and creating music. Think through/ memorize scales, keys, diatonic harmony, chord structures, the number system, transposition, modes, etc. The more you understand how it all works the easier it is to learn and make music.
Diatonic: Within the context of a key
Parallel: Moving by half step
Although we don’t want to spend all of our practice time playing songs, learning songs are an effective and fun way to take what you are learning and use them in actual musical situations. This means after learning/practicing new chords, scales, licks, etc, ask yourself how you can use what you know in the context of a song. If you don’t know how to use what you know in a song then you really don’t understand that musical concept yet.
With a Metronome
Practicing with a metronome is a great way to practice steady rhythm and keep track of progress. Playing to a metronome will make you recognize if you can play to a steady beat or not. If you struggle to play with a metronome you will struggle to play with a drummer. I have known plenty of players who know a bunch of chords but struggle to play in time because they are only used to playing by themselves (you don’t want to be this person). Practicing with a metronome is also a good way to keep track of speed because you will be able to see the numeric value of how fast or slow you are playing. The metronome will allow you to see how many beats per minute you can play and will allow you to get faster by speeding it up little by little.
Take Things Slow
If you are having trouble with a particular chord, lick, melodic line, etc. try slowing it down. It is far better to play it slow and right than to play it fast and sloppy. Make sure you play it at a tempo that is slow enough for you to get all of the notes and rhythms right. Once you have it down use the metronome to speed it up little by little until you get it up to speed.
Practice the Hard Stuff
Don’t Just play the stuff you are good at! Some of the best advice I got from a professor in college was “Practice the hard stuff”. People are naturally drawn to the things they are good at. When it comes to playing an instrument it is the things that you struggle with that you should be focused on most during your practice time. Practice the hard stuff even if it means your fingers feel awkward or that you have to play it unbearably slow. If you never practice it, it will never get better.
Believe in yourself
It took me years to realize that the thing holding me back the most was me. I assumed that to be really good you had to have been born with a special talent. The more “Talented” people I met the more I realized that they just practice a lot. By changing my mindset I began to learn things I didn’t think I would be able to do, and so can you!
You can play just about anything if you set your mind to learning it and practicing it enough. [ Practice + repetition + time = “Talent” ]
Be Gracious With Yourself
You will not always get everything on the first try, that is true for both guitar and just life in general. However, just because we don’t get something on the first try doesn’t mean that it’s not for you. Not being good at something at the beginning doesn’t mean that you will never be good at it. Be gracious with yourself, allow yourself time to learn. Don’t give up easily, instead set your mind to what you want and allow yourself to fail until you get it right. Be patient you will get better just give it time. :)