When you’re beginning to learn guitar, you also have to learn how to practice. Follow this expert advice from guitar teacher Mike B. to find the proper amount of practice time you need to achieve your guitar goals…
As a guitar instructor, one of the most common questions I get asked is “how often should I practice?” Students are told various amounts of time that are deemed “proper” to practice each day. Some say a half hour, some say an hour, some say more, some say less. With all of these conflicting guitar practice tips how can you make the proper decision regarding the amount of time you spend with your instrument each day?
As an instructor, and as a person who practices every day, I feel it all comes down to the individual. Since every person has different interests, different levels of ability, and different goals, it would make sense for everyone to have a different practice schedule. In my opinion, the amount of time one spends practicing should be dictated primarily by your current goals.
Your current goals can be defined as the material you need to get through before the next lesson, or any material you want to master outside of your guitar lessons. When you are just starting out and have only been assigned a few chords or melodies to work through it may not make sense to spend an hour a day practicing. It may make more sense to spend fifteen or twenty minutes a day practicing since there isn’t much material available to work through. On the other side of the coin, a much more advanced student that has a lot of material to get through should spend more time practicing. The more material you have available to play should equal more time practicing.
In an ideal world you should spend however much time is necessary to get through your material each day. In the real world that simply is not always possible, for a few reasons. First, people have schedules, commitments, social lives, and other responsibilities to occupy their day, so they simply can not spend the majority of each day practicing. Second, if you practiced the same exact material every day you would most likely get pretty sick of it. What is important in this situation is to set aside an amount of time that you can commit to each day, and prioritize what needs to be worked on each day.
When it comes to time spent on the instrument, consistency is key. If you can devote an hour a day Monday through Friday to practice that’s great. If you can only devote a half hour a day that works too. Whatever you can come up with will work, as long as you are consistent. Practicing five hours one day and then not touching the guitar for a week will not do you anywhere near as much good as simply playing every day.
Once you have decided how much time you can realistically devote to the instrument each day, I find it very helpful to list out the material you are seeking to master.
For example, say an intermediate student is currently working on chords, scales, arpeggios, a few songs, technique, and reading music. This student has decided to devote forty-five minutes every day to practicing. Within a forty-five minute span of time every one of these subjects could be touched upon.
However, it might make more sense for the student to divide these subjects over the span of two days, rather than just one, and alternate his or her practice schedules. When doing this, prioritize what needs the most work, what needs to least amount of work, and assign each subject an amount of time. Some material may need to be touched upon on both days. Some material may be touched upon on both days but in different forms(Major and minor chords for example). For example:
Minor Chords – 15 minutes
Song 1 – 10 minutes
Scales – 5 minutes
Technique – 10 minutes
Reading music – 5 minutes
Major Chords – 5 minutes
Reading music – 10 minutes
Song 2 – 5 minutes
Song 3 – 10 minutes
Arpeggios – 15 minutes
By breaking up the material over two days you can spend more time on each subject, and keep your practice schedule fresh and interesting.
I don’t feel there is a magic answer when it comes to the question “how much time should I spend practicing?” The right guitar practice tips depend on the student and their goals. Focused and consistent practice will yield the best results. Quality of time spent can be a lot more important that quantity of time spent.
Mike B. teaches acoustic guitar, blues guitar, and guitar in Arcadia, CA. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Guitar Performance from University of Redlands, as well as his Master’s Degree in Studio and Jazz Guitar from University of Southern California. Mike divides his time between performing live, doing recordings, and being an educator. He has been teaching students since 2004. Learn more about Mike B. here!
Photo by erik.aldrich