I asked 12 year old Armando, “So, what is your goal as a guitar player?”
He said, “I wanna be the best guitar player that ever lived!”
Then I said, “Really? Well then, all you have to do is create a fool proof guitar practice routine and find a witch and pay her to put together a potion that will resurrect all the great guitar players in history. Then you have to battle them to the death in the “Superintergalactic Guitar Competition of the Universe” and God and I will be the judges.”
“What!” Armando shouted. He proceeded, “Ok, I meant best guitar player In the world!”
I retorted, “In that case you have to google, “best guitar players in the world today” then you have find there email addresses and contact them and challenge them to the “World Guitar Shredding Championships” and Slash and I will be the judges.”
“Oh, geez!” Armando blurted. “Nevermind! I think I’ll start off with being the best in the school and then the best town.”
“That sounds doable. Let’s get started” I answered.
Yes, I had interesting students with pretty interesting goals. But not all were like that. Most students didn’t have a clue of what they wanted. I expected that.
Practicing is part of the process and journey that will lead you to your success. But! There is a a right and wrong way on how to rehearse. The days of the typical 4-8 hours a day to reach your goals are gone.
You do still need to need to dedicate time and with today’s new discoveries and strategies that time can be cut in half.
Fortunately for your guys it’s not quantum physics. I have laid out a simple plan for you guys. There are no tricks it’s common sense.
Here are 10 steps to cutting your guitar practice routine in half.
1. Burning Desire: What do you crave? How badly do you want it? On a scale of 1-10 what would you do to get it?
Many folks say they want to lose weight but never achieve it. Why? Because their desire level is probably a 1-3. Their desire for sugar and grease is level 7-10.
That’s exactly where you want to be somewhere in between level 7-10. This is the hot zone meaning you will do what it takes to achieve guitar greatness.
2. Goals: Before you pick up your instrument you have got to know exactly what you want.
Do you want be a blues player? Rocker? Shredder? Jazzer? But more importantly in order to reach these milestones you need to set small goals in order to reach your ultimate destination.
One step at time. Grab a sheet of paper and write it down! I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s proven that people that write down their goals and place it somewhere where they can remind themselves daily will most likely get those goals accomplished. You don’t have to write a whole essay down.
Just a few clear steps that will help your reach your goal. For example:
- Master all 15 basic open chords
- Master the entire fretboard
You get the idea.
3. Practice Plan: This does not need to be complicated but is a complete necessity. There are certain skills a musician needs to obtain and work on constantly to reach guitar awesomeness.
I have laid out all the necessary skills in a blog that I wrote awhile back click here to find out more.
Your plan will lay out step by step all the necessary details you have to accomplish daily. It’s like homework. Studying daily until you get to the big test.
Target certain techniques or songs 1-3 months at a time to reach small mini goals. Here is a sample:
- Master blues scales at 80-90 bpms up and down on the entire fretboard using alternate picking and eighth notes.
- Master Chorus of “Canon in D”
- Master intro of “Stairway to Heaven.”
Very simple and doesn’t need to be complicated but the small mini goals must be clear and must useful to achieve your main goal, if not scratch it out.
4. Metronome and small audio recorder: is a must to track and review your progress.
My student Sandy, she’s so sweet but when it comes time to use that metronome or recorder she’s totally disgusted. She can’t stand the metronome and doesn’t want to bother even hearing herself play on some recording device.
The metronome is just another musician that has better timing to accompany us and help us through our progress. The recorder and metronome will point out mistakes that will get us to our goal. These devices are our allies not enemies, embrace them because they are there to help not harm us.
5. Deep Focus: Remove distractions! Set up a time and place where there are zero distractions. No tv, text messages, internet, phone calls, crazy kids, annoying neighbors. Locking out distractions will create deep focus and will cut your progress in half.
I live in a small apartment in LA where cars are whizzing by and neighbors are arguing and making noise. What I do is plop on some headphones and it reduces the noise, if you have a quiet area use it if not look for a spot.
6. Motivation: This is the reason that is going to get you to turn off Netflix and start practicing. Sometimes we forget what reason that is, so we have to keep reminding ourselves. It has to be strong enough from a level of 7-10 to spark that burning desire.
Yes, many times that burning desire needs kindling every now and then.
“People often say motivation doesn’t last, we’ll neither does bathing that’s we we recommend it daily.” Zig Ziglar.
Your motivation can be positive and negative. It is true that negative emotions are a lot stronger than positive ones but I suggest you use both. Before I start rehearsal I actually recall past negative and positive experiences in my musical career, I also love watching video on YouTube. This is what gets me going and super motivated.
In high school my best bud Jonah wanted to learn the sax. After a year of playing the sax he was pretty good but one time he was asked to play at church music group conference.
Jonah was exciting to be able to perform until this more experience cocky sax player totally blew his mind away. After the gig he approached the cocky sax player and asked many questions and totally praised him but unfortunately the cocky sax player was to cocky and didn’t pay Jonah any attention and he was totally disappointed with the guys attitude.
After that day Jonah vowed to come back to the conference and literally smoke the cocky sax player out of the water. Sure enough two years later of hard dedication and practice Jonah returned to the conference and took the whole show away. And yes the cocky sax player was dumbfounded. What’s your motivation?
7. Visualize: During chemistry class In high school I used to finish my work early (no I’m not a nerd.) so I would pull out of my bag a guitar magazine and study the guitar lessons without a guitar.
I was visualizing the fretboard, notes, rhythm, etc. I was basically playing a small video clip in my head fingering the notes and practicing. I call it glorified day dreaming. Right before you play a tune, scale, etc you have to press the play button in your imagination and visualize and hear it before you physically play it on your instrument.
This is huge! Studies show that athletes use visualization techniques to improve their training. In high school I wasn’t even aware that’s what I was doing in chemistry class, yet when I got home after school and picked up my guitar and played what I was visualizing is class it seemed a whole lot easier.
They say 10-15 minutes of visualization is equal to 1 hour of practice time. I suggest you start visualizing.
One thing at a time: This will be a quick one. Make a list of all small mini guitar goals you have to accomplish and prioritize them in order to reach your major guitar goal. Do one thing at a time!
Basically you gather bits and pieces of music your are working on and your just drill them for a certain period of time. What I do is set a timer for a certain period of time let’s say 5 minutes.
Then I use a 2 bar phrase of riff that I’m currently working on and I just do repetitions until the timer stops. Depending on the difficulty of the part my hands could get pretty sore, but I’m building my motors skills.
“Repetition is the mother of all skill.”
9. Target weaknesses: Another quick one. Knowing your weak areas in your playing and targeting them will increase your progress. Don’t forget to keep working on your strengths as well, but focus should be more on your weaknesses.
10. Practice schedule: Yes, it’s important to have a schedule of practice time. Whether it’s right after work, before you go to bed, in the morning, before school. Consistency is key, life can get in the way and believe my it always does.
My buddy came over to my studio as I’m writing this blog and wanted to hang out. I didn’t want to feel like a hermit always stuck in the studio working so I obliged. I’ll be a day late posting this.
Keep a schedule! If you have to change it that’s fine, but don’t keep changing it like you do your dirty underwear. Being consistent will take you a long way.
Here is a recap.
- Burning Desire
- Practice Plan
- Metronome and small recorder
- Deep Focus
- Target weaknesses
- Practice Schedule
These 10 steps seem like a lot but they really aren’t. These tips I have picked up over time and has help me tremendously to grow my skills in a short period of time. You don’t need to spend 8 hours a day unless you really want too. That’s your prerogative! (Bobby Brown reference)
Once again that’s another installment of one of my lessons. Any suggestions or comments below feel free post them below.
Thanks and God Bless