The word “practice” has many associations: hard work, infinite possibilities, a dreaded necessity, new knowledge and new skills, the pathway to success, etc. Many may have heard about the mythical “10,000 hour rule”, which states that to become a true expert in any field, you need to put in approximately 10,000 hours of focused practice time. In reality, the nature of what makes for true excellence in the field of art is way too complex to simply be summarized by a fixed number. What is certain though, is that it takes a lot of dedication and many years of hard work to truly become a world-class expert at mostly anything. And this will usually be regardless of the amount of natural talent any person may possess. Chances are that you may actually have to be driven by an inner flame and an inner, naturally occurring motivation, which simply cannot be explained or systemized that easily. Now, on the other hand, we also know for a fact that some degree of systemized practice is the only proven method if you want to improve your skills, regardless of what you try to accomplish. And most importantly, to be able to systemize your time in the practice room in a meaningful way, you need to have a clear idea of exactly what you should spend your time on. That is what we will focus on in this article.
It is incredibly important to structure your practice time if you want to make as much progress and be as efficient as possible in the practice room. Especially if you have a lot of other responsibilities in your life such as school, work, family, etc. Your practice routine can be customized in numerous ways, and much of your practice needs will depend on what your goals are, what you are working on at any given time and what you are trying to improve in your playing. Your practice needs may change from month to month, and your practice needs will most likely also change throughout your career. Regardless of how you structure your practice routines, there are certain core topics that you want to make sure you include. Based on a 120-minute (2 hour) practice session, what follows is a basic breakdown of topics you could include in your daily practice routine to make you a well rounded and a somewhat complete musician in line with the needs of the 21st century music industry.
- Warm-up exercises (10-15 min/10%)
- Technique (20 min/15%)
- Harmony/Theory (20 min/15%)
- Music reading (10-15 min/10%)
- Repertoire (15-20 min/15%)
- Improvisation (15-20 min/15%)
- Song writing (15 min/10%)
- Having fun (10-15 min/10%)
Total of 120 minutes/100%
This is a quick breakdown of the topics you can focus on that will fill most of the holes you may have in your knowledge base. We will in the next article go through each of these topics in detail, and break down the specific items you need to focus on in each category. But let’s first look at another very important aspect of a practice routine which is often overlooked.
Goal setting is used by achievers in all fields, and is very important because it gives you:
- Long term vision
- Short term motivation
Goals will help you focus on where you are heading, what you need to learn and work on, and will help you organize your time and your efforts so you can become the guitarist you want to be. Clearly defined goals will also enable you to measure progress and will help you stay on track.
There are two types of goals: long-term and short-term. The long-term goals will lead you towards ultimately becoming the musician you envision and where you ultimately want to be in your life. These are the big dreams. Short-term goals will help you through your day-to-day business, and will boost your energy and confidence, as the progress is easier to notice and measure. There are a lot of resources available that will help you define and set your goals. Go back to the beginning of the chapter, and write out a list of goals for what kind of guitarist and musician you want to become, and then customize a practice routine that will help you reach your goals.
We will in the next articles dive deeper into the more detailed aspects of a well-structured practice routine, and shed some light on what you actually need to focus on during your day-to-day work to become a master guitarist in the 21st century contemporary music industry.