Unfortunately for all of us, there is only so much time in a day. We all
are faced with things we need to do, like work or school, sleeping, and
eating; things that tend to "get in the way" of all of the things we would
like to do. There are also personal aspects such as relationships with
significant others and family and recreation that help us to maintain
healthy and balanced lives. So how and when do you find time to practice,
and what do you practice?
Building a Routine
I have found that building a routine works best for me. I am lucky to have
a teaching career at a school of music; if I get there a little early or if
some students do not come in for their lessons, I can get some time to work
on things. I can not always count on that, so I also make it a habit to
practice in the morning when I get up. This routine works for me, and if I
miss more then a day or two, I really miss it.
It doesn't really matter what your routine is, as long as you have one.
Can you squeeze in 30 minutes after school or work? Can you skip Leno or
Pokemon or whatever your viewing habits may be?
What to Practice
It is vital to assess your goals in guitar and music so you will know how
to best spend your time. There are a few things that I find are universal,
but the degree to which you pursue and study them will depend on your
Keeping a Record
- Technique - you will have a hard time playing those Jewel tunes (if that
is your aspiration) if you can't get your fingers around a few barre chords
and can't fingerpick. Likewise, forget about metal or jazz if you can't
alternate pick with agility.
- Ear training - if your ears are underdeveloped, you will never know if you
are playing the correct chords or not, and besides, do you really wanna
shell out $5 for a magazine with transcriptions when you only want 1 of the
5 songs offered?
- Reading music - you don't have to be able to sight transpose alto clef up
a fifth, but wouldn't it be nice to have a basic understanding of all those
dots? And it makes it easier to understand the next item:
- Theory - music is based on melody and harmony. Melody and harmony are
based on scales. Scales are the foundation of theory.
I am not an overly organized individual, (if you dont believe me, you
should see my bedroom) but I have found that organization greatly aids my
practice habits. Go to Wal Mart and buy one of those 75-cent notebooks.
Each time you practice, write the date, duration of practice, and what
specifically you worked on.
You may not have time to work on everything everyday (see above), but if
you keep a record, you can say "I figured out 3 tunes this week, but I still
only know 2 ways to play A7 - time to find my 'Chord Chemistry' book..."