17 September 2008

Guitar Practice Routine: Three Stages

This post in the guitar practice organization series shows a simple system to balance your time between three types of practice. As you learn guitar you learn new pieces or skills, you have skills and pieces to perfect, and you have songs to revise.

A controlled balance of these three types of practice can help you avoid three practice pitfalls.

Pitfall #1 - Too many new exercises

This pitfall is easy to fall into. There are so many guitar lessons and exercises proposed to you, technique lessons, scales, exercises. It is easy to lose sight of your objectives and try out new exercises all the time because they appeal to you and promise to make you a better player.

But if you spend too much time jumping from exercise to exercise you may not perfect your playing before moving on. You can become a guitarist that plays just a few fragments, but can't really play any songs.

Pitfall #2 - Stuck Seeking Perfection

Aiming to perfect everything you learn before moving on is generally a good idea. But you can take it too far. You should realize that it is not always easy to perfect something in a short time. It can take a lot of repetition and learning in different contexts.

Sometimes, you need a break to really integrate and perfect things, too. If you don't let yourself work on anything else until you perfect each exercise you can get stuck. Too much time spent on the same old thing can lead to boredom and frustration. You need a way to let a little fresh material into your routine from time to time.

Pitfall #3 - The Same Old Thing

Ever feel like you're playing the same old things again and again? Most guitarists have felt this at sometime, you don't seem to learn anything new, just playing the old songs in the same old way.

Some guitarists can be quite happy with this situation, so it may not be a trap for you. But you might feel frustrated by your lack of growth as a player. If so then pay attention to this warning sign.

Three Stage Organization

To avoid these three traps, use this simple solution. Put each item on your practice list into one of three buckets: new, perfecting, revising. Then pay attention to the number of items and the time you spend on each bucket while you practice.

A Balanced Act?

Do you feel you have a good balance of new, perfecting, and revision items in your practice schedule? If not, you now have a tool to help you figure out what to do more, or less, of. Remember that there is no "one true" balance for every player. You have to find the balance that works for you.

If you are just starting out, for example, you'll have more little to revise. You spend more time on new and perfecting skills.

An experienced player might spend a lot of time just to revise what you already know. In addition, you might learn new things quite quickly, so you need less time on new and perfection items.

You can adapt your balance to changes in your circumstances, too. If you are busy and have little time you can reduce, even eliminate, acquiring new skills. Just spend a little time revising and enjoying what you know. You probably don't have the time or energy to learn new things anyway. So avoid that frustration and maintain your playing level.

Just remember to keep a track on your overall balance and make sure you're not falling into unwanted practice traps.

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More on practice routines...

Aristotle's Guitar Practice Routine
Guitar Practice Routine: Get Started
Guitar Practice Routine: Interval Training
Guitar Practice Routine: Hamburger's Tips

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