Splitting Up Your Guitar Time: Bite-Size Guitar Podcast Episode 50

Episode 50 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at how you currently split your guitar time between practice and fun and why it matters.

Taking a look at how you split your guitar time between practice and fun can make sure you’re staying on track and avoid burning yourself out or becoming bored with guitar. It’s a simple topic, but something most guitarists never think about.

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Podcast Episode 50 Transcript

Hi, I’m Aaron from guitargearfinder.com and this is episode 50 of the Bite Size Guitar podcast.

In this episode, let’s have a look at how you’re currently splitting your practicing and playing time up and why it matters. Some of what I talk about in this episode will come across as obvious or common sense, but it’s something most guitarists don’t stop to think about. So think of this episode as a quick checkup to look at what you’re currently doing and whether or not you should make some changes to your playing and practicing habits.

Have a think about the time you’ve spent this week practicing and playing guitar. How much time did you spend practicing with the specific aim to improve your skills and abilities on guitar? Now how much time did you spend just playing for fun without any thoughts about practice or improvement? What type of split do you currently have between playing just for fun and playing or practicing with a goal in mind? Is it a 50:50 split between practice and fun, is it 70:30 with 70% of your time spent playing for fun and 30% practicing, or something else? What does your split look like?

How you split your guitar playing time between playing guitar just for fun and playing guitar with an aim to improve impacts your future with the guitar.

Just to be clear with how I’m defining this split, I know that it’s possible to have fun working on exercises, learning new techniques, or mastering songs. You can spend your entire time practicing and enjoy every moment of it. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

When I’m talking about time spent having fun on guitar, I’m purely talking about any time you pick up your guitar just enjoy playing songs or jamming without a single thought of improvement or a goal in mind. So while there’s a blurry line between playing guitar just for fun and practicing guitar, hopefully you get the basic idea behind what I’m saying.

Let’s look at two extreme examples to get started and find out why this split between fun and practice matters.

At one extreme, imagine someone who spends 100% of their time playing guitar focused on working on exercises and drills to help them improve. In other words, 100% of their time on guitar is dedicated to meaningful practice – not jamming around mindlessly, not loosely playing songs for fun, just strict practice.

The upside of this person’s dedication to practice is that they will improve over time. The time they spend working on exercises, drills, or focusing on mastering parts of songs will pay off over time.

The potential downside of this is that they risk burning themselves out and getting bored with guitar. As the saying goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull buy”. Spending 100% of your time working on exercises and strict practice routines can gradually sap any enjoyment a person has for guitar. Now, some people like this type of disciplined practice, but constantly spending 100% of your time on serious practice can wear you down and drain your enthusiasm for guitar. A 100% focus on practice can be helpful in short periods, but not over the long run.

Now let’s look at the other extreme end. Let’s imagine someone who spends 100% of their guitar time playing just for fun. This person jams along to songs that they learned in the past, they throw on backing tracks and just noodle around, and just play anything that feels fun. They don’t put a single thought into any form of practice, or thinking about how they could improve anything. It’s just about having fun.

The upside of this person’s approach is that they’ll obviously enjoy playing guitar. What’s the point of spending hours and hours learning and practicing techniques and songs if you never pick up the guitar just to have fun?

The potential downside to this is that they’ll likely never see any big improvements in their abilities, they probably won’t be motivated to learn new songs, and may end up stuck in a rut or plateau. Even if this person is having fun playing guitar today, in a few months or few years, they may lose enthusiasm for guitar because they’re always playing the same stuff over and over.

Spending 100% of your time just having fun on guitar sounds like the end goal for everyone, but it’s just like a full-time worker imagining themselves retiring to sip cocktails on a tropical island. After a few weeks or months doing that, most people would become bored and need some sort of new challenge. It’s the same with guitar.

These two examples are extreme and may seem unrealistic, but I guarantee there are a lot of people out there that perfectly fit the scenarios. There are people out there who think that practice is a dirty word and their only practice is jamming to songs they memorized a decade ago. You can probably even think of famous guitarists who talk about how they have no need to practice. There are also people out there who follow a strict practice routine every day in the hopes that one day they’ll become a virtuoso. They have the mindset that they’ll work hard to master guitar, then they’ll have fun.

While some of those people will be perfectly happy with that approach, you can probably guess that I don’t think either scenario is ideal. I believe having some sort of split of your time between serious practice and fun is a healthier approach to guitar that will serve you better in the long run.

The challenge is figuring out what split is best for you right now, as well as how that split should change in the future.

A beginner starting out learning guitar today needs to spend a lot of time on serious practice, otherwise he’ll never learn anything. There may be times when nothing feels fun to a beginner, but that will change over time. On the other hand, an intermediate guitarist who has been playing for decades can afford to lean more towards just having fun playing guitar and less time on serious practice.

Think about any goals you have for guitar over the next 6 months. If you can think of any such as learn a specific song, improve this or that technique, or learn something new, that’s a sign to make sure you set some time aside for serious practice.

If you can’t think of any goals, that could be a sign that you’re in a good place right now and it’s okay to spend more time just enjoying guitar.

Also think about your current level of motivation or enthusiasm for guitar. Do you feel kind of stuck or bored with guitar? If you are, take a look at your split between serious practice and fun. That’s a sign you might need to adjust it. You might be bored with guitar because you’re spending too much time focused on serious practice and you’re starting to burn out. Or you might be bored because you’re not pushing yourself to learn or improve, so you might want to set yourself a new goal to work towards. So you might need to shift your split in either direction, there’s no simple rule everyone should follow.

If you’re not enjoying guitar much right now, the reason might be as simple as having the wrong split between practice and fun.

There have been times when I’ve had lower motivation because I was pushing myself too much to improve my skills, and I’ve also had times when I became bored with guitar because I didn’t have any goal I was working towards and just spent time playing songs I already knew or just noodled with backing tracks.

That’s why I wanted to record this episode. It might sound obvious that you need to have a healthy balance between having fun on guitar and practicing, but how much time do you spend thinking about it and then planning accordingly?

From now on, anytime you feel a little burned out, bored, or sense any dip in your enthusiasm for guitar, take a close look at your current split between fun and practice. The chances are you need to rebalance it. What worked for you last year or even last month may not work for you tomorrow, next month, or next year because we’re always changing as people. Don’t let it get to the point where you dread picking up your guitar because you’re so bored of the songs you’ve learned or because it feels like work every time you practice. Make sure your current playing and practicing habits are balanced enough that you’ll continue to enjoy guitar in the future.

If you feel unsure with any of this, send me a message on guitargearfinder.com and let me know how you’re currently spending your guitar time.

This was a straightforward topic but hopefully I’ve made it clear why it’s important to think about. Pay attention to your split between fun and practice this week and think about whether it’s working for you or not.

As a side note, thank you to everyone who has been messaging me about the podcast and website. I’m glad that the time and effort I put into writing articles and recording episodes is making a difference to some people. If you enjoy this podcast or the articles on Guitar Gear Finder, please help me spread the word so I can keep them going. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you next time.