I’m a practice nerd. I love practicing.
But I haven’t always.
In fact, when I was younger, I barely practiced at all. Now that I’m older and more experienced (20 years of playing…I’m getting old!), I regret the time I wasted, not practicing to fulfill my potential. Unfortunately, I fell for many traps. Fortunately, I can share my experiences with my students and you to help you avoid these practicing traps.
Here is one of the most important tips I have for my students:
Learning guitar isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.
No one, no matter how much they practice, will learn guitar in a day, or a week, or month, or even a year.
How Can Too Much Practice Be Bad?
When I first picked up the guitar, I was so excited. I practiced every day for 2-3 hours. In a week, I made some serious progress.
Then my fingers started hurting.
My back and neck were sore.
As my progress seemed to slow down, I got easily frustrated.
I quit with almost as much energy as I practiced.
If you practice too much at any one time, you’ll have many of these problems too.
- If you don’t have calluses yet, you’ll injure your fingers.
- You won’t see the progress you’re making and get frustrated.
- You’ll burn out!
- If you miss a practice session, you’ll probably be disappointed in yourself and quit.
Did you know your brain needs time to turn information from short-term memory into long-term memory? This is why cramming for a test may work in the short-term, but you likely won’t remember in the long run. It applies to guitar as well.
Habits are critical to develop with guitar playing as well, and this isn’t done in a week. It’s a long-term commitment more than a short-term cram.
How Can Too Little Practice Be Bad?
Um…this one’s pretty obvious, right?
If you don’t practice, you won’t get better. Nothing will be retained and no habits will be developed. You MUST practice and play to improve.
The Correct Practice Pacing Schedule
There’s a pretty schedule to follow for good pacing and maximum learning in the long run. It’s one I developed over years of playing and, even more important, teaching countless students of all ages. It’s based on these principles:
- Frequency over length
- Building stamina by gradually increasing practice length
- Allowing for busy schedules and forgotten practice sessions
It’s perfectly fine to forget to practice every once in a while, but you need to stick with it. And if you get really frustrated or if your fingers start to hurt, STOP and try again later that day or the next day. Your motivation and enjoyment of guitar is far more important than getting better.
Here’s the schedule (please note the early part of the schedule goes until calluses are built):
|Time Period||Frequency of Practice||Length of Practice|
|First month (or until calluses form)||4-5 days per week||10-15 minutes|
|Months 2-3||4-5 days per week||20-25 minutes|
|Months 4-6||5-6 days per week||30-40 minutes|
|Months 6-12||6 days per week||45-60 minutes|
|Years 2-3||25 days per month||60 minutes (90 at most)|
|Years 4+||25 days per month||60-90 minutes+ (120 at most)|
As you get better and better, it’s still important not to push yourself too hard regularly. After 1 year, it’s OK to spend more than an hour practicing, but be careful not to get upset with your progress and if it hurts, STOP.
In time, if you follow this consistently, you will improve a lot and reach your guitar dreams.