Practicing can be a daunting task at any level. Establishing practice routines, setting goals, and working out practice schedules will help to streamline the process and set you up for success.
Make practicing part of your daily routine. Think of it as an essential part of your day, rather than something to do if there’s extra time. To that end, set a time (or times) each day that is exclusively for practicing. Try to make this the same time(s) everyday so that it becomes part of your daily rhythm. Set your practice time(s) for when you’re most alert; don’t wait until last thing before going to bed. You’ll find you progress much quicker, and more than likely you’ll enjoy practicing.
Organize your practice space. Whether it’s a corner of a room, an entire room, or a studio having a dedicated space for practicing will help you keep your focus and allow for much smoother progress from day to day. Make it a comfortable space, somewhere you can’t wait to get each day. Keep this space quiet and distraction-free. No TV, tablet or other device. Keep your phone off, or if you use practice aids on your phone (metronome apps, tuner apps, practice log apps, to record yourself for later analysis, etc.) set your phone to restrict incoming calls, texts, and notifications during practice. Have all your practicing essentials ready in your practice space: tuner, metronome, scores, blank staff paper, pencil, etc.
How long you practice will depend on your skill level and your goals. Since each person requires an individualized assessment of their current skill set and goals before setting up a routine, here is a general outline of daily practice times for different levels:
Beginners 20-30 minutes up to 1 hour
Intermediate 2-3 hours
Advanced 5-6 hours
These represent the total number of minutes/hours spent practicing over the course of a day, and will vary from person to person. It’s better to break down practice into several smaller sessions, rather than one long, continuous session. You’ll give your hands time to rest between periods of high activity, and you’ll give your brain time to process the information taken in during a practice session (don’t overload yourself by trying to do everything without breaks).
Here is an overview of areas on which to focus your practice. These are sample practice schedules based on those that I use in my teaching and in my own practice. You may decide to use these as models for your own practice, or come up with your own variations. Breakdowns of each category will come in later posts. The timings represent the maximum times for each level listed above. Of course the level of difficulty in each category will be commensurate with the skill level of the student. Note that since not all categories apply to beginner students, not all will have a listed time.
*Scales harmonized in thirds, sixths, octaves, and tenths. Triads in all inversions, all keys, in close and open voicings across the fretboard.
**Tremolo, rasgueado. Sweep picking, hybrid picking, tapping (for you pickers out there).
Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Stick to those goals, don’t put anything off. You’ll be amazed at the progress you make in, and out of, the practice room. Happy practicing!