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How to Organize Your Guitar Practice

Gary Fletcher

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This article offers suggestions on how to organize your guitar practice time effectively. What material should you work on? How much of it? What can you leave out?

The article looks at four important ideas that help you create a good guitar practice plan.

1. Decide what to leave out.
2. Balance your material.
3. Favor songs over exercises.
4. Prepare a practice album.

Let's take a look at them in more detail.

* Decide What To Leave Out

There are thousands upon thousands of guitar lessons, exercises, and songs available in books, videos and on the internet. You can't possibly learn and play them all. You will do yourself a big service then by deciding not to try.

Decide what to leave out of your practice time, be ruthless and throw out as many things as you can. This will free you to focus on what is essential to you right now. Choose just one style of playing, then one small set of skills in that style and concentrate on that.

* Balance your material

David Hamburger, author of numerous guitar tutorials, suggests a good practice organization in his Beginning Blues Guitar book. Your practice plan should balance physical and mental exercises as well as repertoire.

- Physical exercises build your fingers ability to execute your musical ideas quickly.

- Mental exercises develop your musical knowledge and its application to the guitar. For example, playing a chord progression in several different keys forces you to think about the position of the starting chord in each key and the relations between the chords.

- Finally, build your repertoire in your chosen style by learning songs from a teacher, book or recording.

* Favor songs over exercises

The end goal of a guitar player in any style is to play songs, and if songs are what you want to play then songs are what you should practice. Many learners make the mistake of spending lots of time on exercises, scales and licks. Practicing these all the time only leads to becoming a good exercise, scale or licks player, though.

You should include some fundamentals in your practice time, but make sure that this is just a small part of your practice and dedicate as much of your time as you can to learning and playing whole songs. You can always practice new technical skills by adding them to a song you know already.

Make a Practice Album

As you plan your practice it's good to have a target that motivates you and gives you a variety of things to work on. You will quickly get bored if you spend days or weeks working on the same problem. That's why it's a good idea to plan to learn several songs at once. Pick six to ten songs you love and and organize your practice around them.

You can think of this as your practice album, and it gives you a satisfying result to aim for. When you get bored, or stuck on one song you can simply switch to another for a while. Often times you will discover that problems seem to have disappeared when you return to them after a break doing something else.

Your album makes an excellent supplement to your repertoire. You can plan a small concert to show what you learned, even if it's only to the family dog.

Let's review what you've learned in the article now. Here's how you can create an effective guitar practice plan.

1. Decide what to leave out, you can't do it all.
2. Balance your material, include physical, mental and repertoire time.
3. Favor songs over exercises, because people want to listen to songs.
4. Prepare a practice album, for added variety and interest.

Learner guitarists often worry over what to practice. “Am I working on the right thing?", “Am I doing enough?", “Am I making enough progress?" are frequent questions. Use these tips to create a balanced plan and then concentrate on having fun practicing.

Gary Fletcher is an ever-learning guitar player. Visit where he offers guitar learning tips, discussion and encouragement for other guitar learners.


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