Just like most people, guitarists can have trouble balancing their daily schedule with what they love doing most: playing guitar. Most guitarists have busy lives with time spent between jobs, school, and time with family and as result it can be difficult to find time to play the guitar. I want to reassure all guitarists everywhere that you can always find time to play and grow as a musician. It just might take some time to develop a system that works for you. As a professional guitarist, I have had my share of ups and downs in my playing. Sometimes I just don’t feel motivated or inspired to pick the instrument up and I can feel my playing suffer. But I know recognize that guitar playing goes in cycles. Half the time you are riding a seemingly endless wave of creativity and loving where you are at with the instrument, and then after a while you lose interest at where you’re at and want to go to new place. The good news is I have successfully navigated these cyclical waves of guitar playing and with these tips you can do, even with a busy schedule!
Remember Always Make Playing Fun! If you don’t enjoy picking your instrument to play, you won’t play often enough to improve as a player. So, first and foremost, follow the wise Rev. Billy F. Gibbons sage advice: “Play what you want to hear!” If you aren’t liking the sound of practicing scales over and over, don’t practice that as a technique. Want to learn how to play the blues? Spend 20 mins jamming along to Muddy Waters “Hoochie Coochie Man”. Start with what you want to do because it gets you excited to play the guitar!
Take a Few Minutes to Write Down Some Goals: Identify where you would like to improve on in your playing? Write down a couple things to focus on and then work on them little by little throughout the week. This can help the process of improving your playing dramatically by making the entire process seem less overwhelming. I find that most students have poor self esteem when looking at their playing in the big picture, usually thinking they aren’t the “best guitarist”, when in reality it might be just a few techniques they need to work on to take their playing to the next level. If you prioritize things in a practice routine you will get better faster. Try to make your goals as simple as possible. Again, think simple, not complicated.
Break it Down: Now that you’ve gotten a couple goals chunk them down into easily manageable tasks. This is what I meant by working little by little throughout the week. For instance, want to learn a new song? 1. Learn few of the chords in the song. 2. Learn the next few chords in the song. 3. Practice switching between the chords. 4. Learn the strumming pattern or the techniques associated with your right hand. 5. Combine switching chords with what you’ve learned with your right hand together. Ta-Da. You’ve just learned a song. Want to work on improvisation and soloing? You can apply the same methods to these techniques as well. 1. Learn the chord progression. 2. Play and record the chord progression on your phone. 3. Learn and memorize the scales you’ll need to use in your improvisation. 4. Put on your self-made jam track and come up with a cool little melody on the spot with your scale. 5. Start throwing in some guitar licks or cool idea into your melody you came up with, and then let go of what you learned and improvise slowly with love of playing, feel, with attention to groove and space with your notes.
Prepare in Advance: Thinking about practicing can be too much when your head is swirling with important things you have to do every day. So, prep your usually practice space with the things you’ll need to work on your playing. That can be a comfy chair, a Bluetooth speaker to listen to music or recordings, with music stand to display your music out in advance, have your other supplies like pencils and capos within reach and inescapable from sight. If you can see it when you’re walking around the house it will be a gentle reminder to get that time in. Schedule a practice time and make sure nothing will get in the way. Make sure you remove distractions from your space. I recommend having your phone settings on do not disturb so you won’t get email hits or text messages for a few minutes. Think about a moment where you can spare 5, 10 or 20 minutes. For some people this can be early in the morning, or late at night when everyone has gone to bed. If noise is an issue play without your guitar plugged into an amplifier to help with volume.
Set a Timer: Set a timer on your phone or tablet and 5, 10, or 20 mins depending on how much time you can spare for the day. The timer will help you make sure you don’t waste any time and practice successfully. Then give your well-earned practice time all you got and enjoy!
Take the First Step of Your Goal: Sit down with your favorite guitar in your practice space and begin work on your first goal. I recommend getting away from any screens until your get a feel for what you are doing when you practice. Once you feel comfortable with a regular time, using television on as background noise can help you maintain a proper practice routine because most television programs are in 30 min increments. While practicing focus on what you are doing. Observe all aspects with your playing. Are you playing in time? How are the strings ringing out under your fingers? Are you in tune all the time with every technique? Watch your fingers as they move over the neck to ensure they are using proper technique. Don’t push too hard with your left hand. Feel relaxed. Does everything sound good when you play? Picture what you want to hear with your playing and work towards making that a reality on the strings. Keep at it with a positive attitude and you will grow as a musician.
KEEP PLAYING- AM