Episode 17 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at how you can create the perfect guitar practice routine for your needs.
I take a look at the typical advice shared around practice routines and what that advice means in the real world.
You’ll hear a couple of examples on why the typical advice on practice routines may not be the best approach. You’ll be able to use these examples to help you figure out what the best practice routine for you should be.
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Remember that there’s no ‘best’ practice routine that suits everybody. So take your time reading the above guides and apply the advice to figure out what the best practice routine for you is right now.
Podcast Episode 17 Transcript
Hi, I’m Aaron from guitargearfinder.com and this is episode 17 of the Bite-Size Guitar podcast.
In this short episode, I’ll talk about a different way of thinking about practice routines and what it really means to create the perfect guitar practice routine for you.
The typical advice for creating a practice routine is to split your practice time up to cover different aspects of your playing. You might be told to spend five minutes on finger exercises, five minutes on practicing chords, five minutes working on scales, five minutes working on techniques, and so on.
Most of the advice I’ve seen is to try and cover as many different topics as you can to make sure you become a well-rounded guitarist. You need to balance out practicing songs, working on improvising, music theory, picking techniques, and so on.
At first, creating a balanced practice routine like this makes perfect sense. If you can improve in all of these areas, you’ll become a better guitarist.
Now if you’re currently practicing in this way and things are going well, that’s great. If something’s working, keep doing it.
But if you spend some time thinking about this way of practicing, things start to fall apart.
To understand why this might not be the best approach to creating a practice routine and why you probably don’t want to follow it, let’s compare two different guitarists.
The first guitarist is learning guitar to accompany her singing. She wants to be able to strum chords and that’s it. If she came to you asking for advice on what her practice routine would look like, what would you suggest?
Would you suggest she should follow the typical routine and split her time between scales, chords, techniques, sight-reading, and so on?
I’d imagine you’ll probably suggest that she should spend most of her time learning new chord shapes, working on different strumming patterns, and practicing strumming chords to a metronome.
That would be a perfect routine because every part of it works towards her goal of being able to strum chords to accompany her singing.
Sure, she might benefit from learning scales, practicing different techniques, or studying music theory, but does she need any of that right now? Not really, all she really needs is to learn chords and strumming patterns.
Maybe later on she might have a need to expand in other areas such as fingerpicking, music theory, or playing some lead, but there’s pretty much no point to working on any of that now.
If she focuses completely on chords and strumming, she’s going to reach her goal faster and enjoy practicing far more. Imagine her being told to practice scale runs over and over when all she wants to really do is strum chords. She doesn’t need a balanced practice routine, she needs one with a heavy focus on chords and strumming.
I’m sure my point makes sense, but let’s look at a different example.
Let’s say this second guitarist has been playing guitar for a few years and has just joined a rock cover band as their rhythm guitarist.
What would you guess might be the ideal practice routine for them?
Well, for starters, he probably will want to learn and memorize the songs the band normally plays. So it makes perfect sense that at first, his practice routine should be completely focused on memorizing the band’s setlist.
What about after he memorizes the songs? Does it make sense for him to split his practice time between scales, chords, improvising, sight reading, and ear training?
He would definitely benefit from practicing all of those things, but would that really be the best use of his time?
What if, instead of working on any of that, he focuses his time completely on tightening up his rhythm skills and getting better at the songs his band needs to perform?
What if he worked on each song in the setlist and honed in each part not just to the point of memorizing it, but to the point where he can play it flawlessly?
That practice routine definitely wouldn’t be balanced compared to the typical advice, but it’s pretty clear how it would help him.
The key point with this guitarist is that he’ll get a lot more out of focusing completely on his rhythm skills than he would by splitting his practice time up with other areas.
The band probably doesn’t care about his improvisation skills or his music theory knowledge, they just want a really good rhythm guitarist. So the perfect practice routine for him would be to focus on that goal.
You probably get the point by now that the perfect practice routine is different for every guitarist and there’s not many situations where it makes sense to have a broad and balanced practice routine.
It makes no sense for the guitarist who wants to just strum chords along with her singing to work on anything else at this point other than chords and strumming.
Likewise, the perfect practice routine for the guitarist who has just joined a band is to focus completely on learning and mastering the songs his band performs.
Even if we think of a guitarist who wants to learn everything and play a variety of styles, if we look closer, we’ll find an area they should probably focus on first.
The way to create a perfect practice routine is to look at what your goals are right now with your guitar playing and focus completely on the few things that will help you reach that goal.
For you right now, that might be spending all of your practice time working on one song. Or maybe you want to start writing songs, so your perfect practice routine will be focused completely on songwriting.
Think about what’s important to you right now with your guitar playing. You’ll probably be able to think of one or two things straight away. That’s what your entire practice sessions for now should focus on. Then when you reach those goals or get closer, you can think about this again and adjust your practice routine to suit.
I know this goes against the typical advice of working on a few different areas to become a well-rounded guitarist. But if you hate practicing scales for example and never seem to use them, does it make sense to spend time practicing them now?
Not every guitarist needs to be able to memorize the major scale in every key and every position. Not every guitarist needs to be able to sweep pick arpeggios at 200 beats per minute.
What I’ve learned from years of teaching guitar and working on my own guitar playing is that being a well-rounded guitarist isn’t as fun as being really good at one specific thing.
If there’s something you want to get better at, focus completely on that thing for now. You’ll get better at that thing faster and you’ll enjoy guitar more.
For example, right now my practice routine focuses completely on working on one specific song. Everything else such as chords, scales, songwriting, improvisation, all of it has gone on hold because I want to get really good at a specific song. If I get stuck with a part in the song, I’ll create some exercises to work on the techniques used, but everything I practice at the moment is focused on that song.
Once I master that song, and I’ll probably be working on it for weeks, I’ll shift my focus to something else.
I’ll say again that there’s nothing wrong with taking a balanced approach to practicing guitar. All I’m trying to suggest to you is that you may find that there’s a better way for you.
You may find that creating a heavily unbalance practice routine is a lot more fun and helps you learn faster.
Hopefully, I’ve given you a different way of thinking about practicing and why I believe much of the advice on practice routines miss the point. Think about what you want to get really good at, then focus completely on that. You can always shift focus later on, but there’s almost no time when it makes sense to try and work on everything at once.
Give this way of practicing a try and see if it suits you.
I go into more detail with more examples on creating an ideal practice routine in a guide on my website. Check it out at guitargearfinder.com/podcast/episode-17 If you’re not enjoying guitar at the moment or you don’t feel like you’re getting better, try following the advice in the guide.
You may find that breaking the typical rules you often hear about practice is the better way to go.
Try creating a practice routine using the advice I’ve covered here and in the guide on the website, and let me know how you go. Have fun and I’ll talk to you next time.