You have been told that you have to practice to get better at anything.
But how can you get the most out of every practice time?
Have you been stuck on the guitar? Wondering why you are not getting better as fast as you think you should?
I’d like to show you a better way — a tool’s list to help make sure you are maximizing your practice time, getting more value from your practice sessions, and freeing up the more wasted time to do the things you love.
Here is a key component:
You do have a practice space, don’t you?
Every musician should have a quiet place for them to work on their craft. A room far away from distractions will help you stay focused on the task at hand.
Developing your skill on an instrument requires focused intensity, and we are distracted very easily. And to practice effectively, you will need some specific things in your practice space to make the most of your sessions.
ESSENTIAL TOOLS IN YOUR PRACTICE SPACE
No matter how fantastic a musician may be, if their instrument is not in tune, they will not sound good. A chromatic tuner is helpful for tuning in every key, such as when playing Hendrix or SRV type stuff, both players favored playing (and recording) in Eb standard tuning. Also helpful for more exotic open and drop tunings.
Your drummer in a box. He’s never late, never eats all your food, or complains about your stage volume. A metronome gives you an accurate and measurable way to measure your progress, speed wise. If you play at 60BPM(beats per minute), your measurable goal could be to increase your speed to 70BPM. This gives you a sense of accomplishment, knowing that you are getting better, and you can document that progress daily.
Don’t go too cheap here if you can help it. A nice sturdy stand will be taken for granted, but a cheap flimsy stand will drive you nuts every time you use it.
This is helpful for focusing your attention on practice. Better yet, have a watch that beeps every minute to remind you if you are focusing intently or not. We all have a tendency to drift in our own minds and this is a tool that can help you stay on track.
Recording yourself during practice is one the best ways to monitor your progress objectively. Sometimes when we are all alone and playing, we tend to get emotionally charged and can be distracted by those emotions. By recording your practice, you may find out upon review that you were not in tune or were not staying in time. The recordings don’t lie!
Listening and learning from other musician’s songs and/or teachings is crucial to developing your own voice on the guitar. Essential for learning all those essential licks from your favorite players. The older devices are a pain to rewind a song though. Seriously.
Playing with these type of pre-recorded tracks allows you to improve on your improvisation. It’s nice to have a group of musicians ready to let you solo for as long as you want, and avoid all their complaining about when it’s their turn. It also counts as playing with a (more exciting) metronome.
For electric guitar players, certain sounds are unattainable without an amp and effects. But don’t spend too much time fiddling with the knobs. Find a sound and get to work. Just try to keep it down, OK?
For writing down those all those sweet licks you will come up with during your practice. Just be sure to write legibly. You would hate to lose the riff of the year due to sloppy handwriting.
This little device allows you to play music in every key with a bit more ease. It also helps you break out of the same sounds of those open chords when trying to write songs. It’s like having an extra finger, but without all the unwanted staring from others.
Inspiration may strike at any time. Be ready when the muse visits. You will not remember that genius stuff later, trust me. I like to keep one by my bed in case I have a crazy dream. (I know… you shouldn’t eat a plate of wings before bed!)
Try keeping an assortment of all sizes, shapes, thicknesses, and materials in stock to experiment with while practicing. Thin ones are great for strumming while thicker ones help with articulating leads and arpeggios. And triangle picks are for beginners.
If you plan on performing, chances are that you will be standing up while doing so. Find a comfortable strap that is long or short enough for your style. Practice playing while standing and you soon discover things are different. Unless you are Paul Simon. Or Johnny Cash. Or Tom Morello. Then it’s just about the same.
So you can make cool rock faces and gestures. Seriously though, a mirror can allow you to review things like how you are standing or sitting and is helpful for viewing the fretboard from another perspective when writing your music down.
For when you are sitting. This may seem like an obvious choice, but nothing stifles creativity or a desire to continue practicing like sitting in an uncomfortable place. Like a folding chair. Or Miami in July.
Your dreams and desires on paper. Your goals list should include your short, mid and long-term goals clearly defined. World domination not included.
Remember to focus during your practice time, too. We live in a distracting world, where everything is demanding your attention. You will achieve more results if you practice with a focused intensity for fifteen minutes than you will by noodling around for an hour.