What to Practice

What to Practice

by Ron Dickson, professional guitarist and guitar teacher

It seems simple. I want to learn this, so that is what I practice. Sometimes, you quickly find you are not working on what you set out to do and are playing something completely different that you do not need to practice.

You have to set yourself a bit of structure with what to practice and stick to it. I wouldn’t say I like working this way and find it constraining, but I know it works, and I will spend less time doing what I don’t want to do and more time playing what I want to play.

In our practice plan, we need to have:

-core skills development
-a technique/ scale/ arpeggio/ or other technique
-rhythm playing practice/ chord practice
-a melody piece
-a chordal piece
-planned fun time with the guitar

Plan how long each item is to last and stick to that time using an alarm. Do not be tempted to go over if you are doing well or just about there. The rest will need work too.

Roll it over to the next if you cannot do everything one day. There is a temptation to go back to what you enjoyed the most the next day. However, our brain does not like to work hard, encouraging us to work on what we find easy and avoid difficulty. Work on everything, and you will improve faster.

Five minutes of practice on the same exercise every day for six days is more beneficial than one thirty-minute session on the same exercise a week.

Make sure you focus on precisely what you are trying to achieve and the purpose of your practice. When I was younger, I bought many guitar magazines and books with articles and exercises to develop my guitar playing. I would learn the exercise, play it repeatedly for weeks, and get better slowly. Then, I would get frustrated with not getting the expected results.

When I play similar exercises today, I get results far beyond what I expected back then, with far less time.

The difference is focus and intent. Previously I just did the exercise expecting to get better. Now I am actively looking at what I do and focusing on each part separately. This focus makes the exercise worthwhile, and I progress. Before, I went through the motions and did not realize I was wasting my time.

About the Author: Ron Dickson is a professional guitarist and teacher in Fife, Scotland. He is often found playing live music in Scotland’s Fife and Tayside areas and teachesĀ guitar lessons in Glenrothes and the surrounding area.