Many players ask me for an effective guitar practice schedule that they can use to become a better player. The problem is, without any detailed background information on the person, such as their goals, their current ability, keeping track of their accomplishments on a weekly basis etc. anything I (or anyone for that matter) could give them will be disconcertingly vague.
A natural response to this might be "you teach guitar. You must be a decent player. Why not just give us your practice schedule?"
The simple answer to this is my schedule is right for me and me only! It's not that I don't want to share it, I just think it's counter-productive to give someone a schedule that's been built and refined over the years for someone else.
What is right for me will not necessarily work for you. And even if it did happen to work for you today, it might not weeks or months down the line.
And this is the number one thing to understand about guitar practice schedules. The most effective are as individual as the person themselves.
One-size-fits-all, "cookie cutter" schedules are widely available on the internet, but they are, for most players, a complete waste of time. Why? Because they are either too general to focus your practice in any meaningful way, or they include skills that will do very little to support your personal goals or react to your evolving ability and you will inevitably become overwhelmed, frustrated and lose interest faster than a Michael Angelo Batio lick.
Your practice schedule needs to evolve with you. Ask any professional guitar tutor and they will most likely agree that an effective practice regime will change at least once every month, in order to adapt to the player's growth in certain areas over others.
It's also crucial to have a personalised lesson plan in order to minimise the negative effects of slumps in your progress. As soon as a weakness is identified in your playing, your schedule should immediately adapt in a way that keeps you moving forward, around the inevitable roadblocks which, again, are very personal.
General Elements All Practice Routines Should Include
Of course, there are certain fundamental items that should be part of every guitar practice routine.
- Warm up - self explanatory! Spend 10 minutes warming up before your practice session. This would typically involve some stretching exercises followed by some scale exercises.
- Prioritised skills - your short term goals for the week. Try 30 minutes for your highest priority, 20 minutes for your 2nd, and 10 minutes for your 3rd. If you have more time, squeeze some more in, although I would limit any given skill to 30 minutes per session.
- Improvisation - spend time connecting skills you've learned in previous sessions. Again, 30 minutes max per session.
- Theory - scale and chord vocabulary, intervals, progressions, modes etc. Many people see theory as "bed time reading" but ideally you should transfer this knowledge to the fretboard as soon as you can to help internalise it. Theory elements should ideally supplement your prioritsed skills, to give them more grounding.
Let's just go back to basics for a moment, because without the below process, there's no point even considering creating your own practice routine.
Know Your Goals
There are two goal types you need to set as a serious guitarist - long term and short term. Your long term goal relies on the fulfilment of your short term goals.
Long Term Goal
The first step to creating a meaningful practice regime is to know what kind of guitarist you want to be.
Imagine yourself playing at the peak of your ability. What do you see? Where are you playing? What are you playing? Who inspires your playing style?
On that last point, we all need a certain degree of inspiration to kick start our progress, so first write down 5 guitarists (or as many as applicable) whom you can say inspire(d) you to pick up the guitar.
These guitarists could each be regarded as masters of completely different genres/styles of music - that's fine. No need to tie yourself to a specific style. All we're looking for at this stage is an idea of what turns you on as a musician.
This is the formation of your long term goal. The guitarist you ultimately aim to be. Most guitarists will only have one long term goal at a given time as it will define and focus your short term goals.
It may all sound a bit airy fairy, a bit day-dreamy, but it's crucial to fully understand where you want to go with guitar. Without this in the back of your mind, you can't set any meaningful short term goals. Your practice time will literally be aimless!
Short Term Goals
This is where it gets tricky, especially if you're a beginner and don't know what skills are required to create the sound you want. But the obvious truth is, your short term goals need to be consistent with your long term goal.
Ideally, someone with experience in training people to become accomplished guitarists should be able to help you identify exactly what skills you require to reach your long term goal, to fully realise the player you aspire to be.
However, they can only do this once they themselves fully understand where you want to go as a guitarist.
This is why that intitial long term goal was so crucial, yet sadly overlooked by those looking for the "proven" template schedule. Without that long term goal, even the world's greatest guitar guru will be left guessing! The only option would be to learn everything, to cover all bases, which will quickly become overwhelming and unmanageable (especially if you lead a busy lifestyle).
Why a Personalised Guitar Practice Schedule is the Way to Go
A personalised schedule will...
- Ensure you never feel overwhelmed by how much you have to learn.
- Prioritise your practice time and present your learning "checklist" in the most logical order for you.
- Help you separate need from want. That is the need to practice something in order to improve over wanting to practice something because it's perhaps more fun, regardless of whether it's the right time to work on it.
- Ensure your practice regime evolves with your ability and skill level.
- Tell you exactly how much time to spend on a given skill before moving on to the next.
With your long term goal in mind, complete this questionnaire as accurately as you can, as it will lay the all-important tracks for building your own personal practice schedule.
While many visitors to this page will be annoyed that I didn't provide any "holy grail" guitar practice routines for them to download, I hope most will now understand why such generalised templates are a waste of time and why a truly personalised plan is far more effective in making you the guitarist you want to be.