Regular practice is key to making progress as you learn to play guitar. I'm sure you've heard or read that in lots of places before. But what if you practice regularly but still don't seem to make the kind of progress you expect?
There could be plenty of different reasons. Maybe some of these common guitar practice mistakes could be part of your problem? Check out the descriptions below to discover if they apply to you and how you can avoid them.
1. Are You Challenged?
One of the easiest practice mistakes to fall into is not giving yourself enough challenge. It's easy to spend lots of practice time simply picking up your guitar and playing through the same old exercises or songs out of habit.
To avoid this pitfall you need to spend some thought to prepare a challenging practice routine that keeps raising the bar a little each week and each month.
2. Do You Know Where You're Going?
If you set out to drive to the supermarket, the chances are you'll get there. You'd find it pretty ridiculous to get into your car to drive without deciding first where you want to go.
Yet many times when we pick up our guitar to practice we forget to make this basic decision. What exactly do we want to achieve in this practice session? What is the destination we're aiming at?
Get clear about the learning or improvement objective of each practice session and you'll get more out of it.
3. Know Your Limits
If you don't set limits in terms of time or repetitions spent on an exercise or objective it's easy to cruise along and spend too much time on it.
Fix some kind of limit so you know when to stop and move on to something else. If you spend all of your practice time on only one thing it will cause you another problem, lack of balance in your practice.
4. Are You In Balance?
You should cover a variety of different areas of work as you practice. If you always work on the same thing you weaken your playing and increase the chances of tiring yourself.
To avoid this ensure your practice plan contains a balance of technique or physical skills, mental skills, and repertoire.
5. Playing Sloppily
If you practice guitar often then it's easy to get into a routine where you don't think too much about what you're doing. That's when sloppy habits can sneak in: poor posture, not keeping technique straight, and so on.
But if you practice sloppy then you'll play sloppy.
Treat your practice it with as much importance as a sell-out concert in front of 50 000 people. Focus on what you're doing (switch off that TV) and pay attention to your posture, position and accuracy.
6. Not Keeping In Time
A form of sloppy playing, not keeping in time is a very common error.
It is hard and discouraging at first to have a metronome telling you that your playing is out of time.
But work with your metronome or rhythm machine and it will help you to develop this vital playing skill.
7. Watch Your Position
I spent almost all of my practice time as I learned guitar sitting down. But guess what, when I started to play with other musicians eight times out of ten there is no place to sit.
This might depend on the style of music you want to play but think about the kind of conditions you will play in. Then make sure you practice in similar conditions. It does make a difference.
Did you recognize any of these mistakes? Don't feel bad about if you do, I've made all of these mistakes at some time or another and I still make some of them now.
The point of the article is not to bash yourself up because you made mistakes. The point is to be aware of them and do something to change your practice routine so you avoid or stop making them.
Photo by Cameron Cassan.