Designing a Practice Schedule

author: cgglyde date: 09/03/2014 category: correct practice
rating: 7 / votes: 3 
Designing a Practice Schedule
To grow as a musician, the most important thing you can do is to develop a practice schedule. Before I talk about making the schedule itself, I first want to address the common objections students raise to creating a weekly schedule.

Student 1: Hey Chris,

"First off, I've really been enjoying lessons and I'm excited to be learning from you. I do have one question though. Today, I made my first practice schedule and it took me a long time. Practically an hour. If I have to make a schedule every week, I would spend 52 hours a year making schedules. Wouldn't my time be better spent simply practicing?"

My Response:

"It's great you have a desire to learn, I really like that. You should still be making these schedules though.

This is your first time writing one, so it took longer than normal. Once you are more experienced, it will only take you 15 minutes. Also you can use the same schedule two weeks in a row before making a new one. That way you won't need to be worried about spending too much time making schedules.

People say Practice makes perfect. It doesn't. Perfect practice makes perfect.

A schedule will help you focus on your goals. As a result, you will grow much faster as a player, than you would if you tried to practice without one.

You may not enjoy practicing some items on your practice schedule as much as others, but these less enjoyable-items are still important. Following a practice schedule will help you practice the way you need to, rather than how you want to. Overtime, as you improve, you will begin to enjoy the items more.

A practice schedule is important and refusing to make one will only slow down your progress."

Student 2:

"I really don't like having a schedule. It's too limiting for me. You've said, that if I'm too succeed I need to enjoy the process of learning to succeed, I need to enjoy the learning process. Following a schedule does the opposite to me."

My Response:

"I understand how you feel. When I started, I wasn't a big fan of a schedule. The practice schedule is crucial to your development as a musician and you should still be making one.

You might enjoy practicing whatever you feel like practicing every day, but it will make you a lopsided player, not developing all the important aspects of your playing.

The way you phrased your words above, gave me the sense that you aren't really enjoying certain subjects in your schedule. It doesn't sound like you actually dislike the process of creating and following a schedule. If you aren't enjoying a certain item in your schedule, there are probably two reasons for this. Chances are, Either you aren't focused on achieving a specific goal with that item or you aren't very good at it yet. People often don't enjoy certain aspects of developing as a musician if they don't succeed right away.

If this is the case, I want you to remember this: It only gets easier. The more you practice, the easier it gets.

If the problem is that you actually dislike the limitations of following a schedule, then I have a suggestion. You don't need to schedule every day and every minute of your practice time. If you're practicing for 2 hours a day, it's fine to only plan out an hour of that time. Then spend the other hour doing whatever you feel like doing.

You can also simply design your schedule for 5 days a week and leave 2 blank. On those two days, practice only what you feel like practicing."

Now let's address actually making a schedule.

Making a Schedule

Follow these steps to make a useful and accurate schedule:
  • Review your last schedule
  • Set up an outline for today's schedule
  • Design a schedule
  • Make a Comments section

1. Review your schedule

Many people always ask why they need to review their old schedule before writing a new one. By reviewing your practice schedule, you are determining what goals you've met and what you need to continue working on. It helps you determine your practice habits new goals are. The section looks like this.

Last Schedule review:

1) What improved? What goals have you met?
2) What are you still struggling with?
3) What habits or processes did you use in your practice that you found beneficial?
4) What habits or processes did you use in your practicing that were not beneficial?
5) What do you need to create, change or try out to make your practice schedule more efficient and improve your progress? 

2. New goals/Writing a new schedule

This step is simple. Choose the 3 – 5 top goals for the coming week.

Top goals:

Individual Goals for items:

Item -------------> Goals:

Ear training -------> Work on minor 2nd and Major 2nd

Visualization ------> Work on memorizing 2nd inversion of A throughout pentatonic scales

Technique --------> Focus on releasing the tension in my left hand thumb

Rhythm -----------> Focus on hearing 16th notes patterns combined with rests

3. Build the Schedule

The point of building this schedule is not to pack everything into one day. Spread out what you do on different days of the week. The only items that should be done almost every day are your top 3 to 5 goals.

Monday: Available time: 20 minutes
10 mins: Visualization
5 mins: Ear training
5 mins Rhythm

Tuesday: Available time: 15 minutes
10 mins: Rhythms
10 mins: Technique session
5 mins: Rhythm

Wednesday: Available Time: 20 minutes
10 mins: Technique session
5 mins Ear training
5 mins Visualization

Thursday: Available time: 15 minutes
5 mins: Rhythm
10 mins: Technique session

Friday: Available time: 20 minutes
10 mins: Visualization
5 mins: Ear training

Saturday: Available time: 15 minutes
10 mins: Technique session
5 mins: Ear training
5 mins: Visualization

Sunday: Available time 20 minutes
20 min: Technique session

The above chart is only an example. You can change it to fit your needs. Some people prefer 8 day schedules. Some prefer to schedule out 4 hour practices. Some people like to take a break on certain day. There are many possible variations, create a schedule the optimizes your growth.

4. Comments, questions and things to try

1) Leave a spot somewhere on the page to write down any questions you might have for your teacher. So you won’t have to remember it later. Instead just refer back to this section.
2) Write down any bad habits or things you need to change in the comments section as well. That way when you review your schedule, you know what you need to change. Again, writing it down is better than trying to remember it later.
3) In this section, you can also write down any exercises you want to add to your practice schedule when you think of them.

That's all there is to making a schedule. Just remember to make a new one every week or two and to make sure it's different. Another aspect of schedule making is to help make practice more fun, so you don't practice the same thing every day.

Creating and following a schedule to organize yourself increases the effectiveness of your practice and allows you to achieve greater results. I suggest getting a separate lab book that you can write and record all you practice schedules in.

Remember practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

The Schedule Sheet

Outline:

1) What improved? What goals have you met?
2) What are you still struggling with?
3) What habits or processes did you use in your practice that you found beneficial?
4) What habits or processes did you use in your practicing that were not beneficial?
5) What do you need to create, change or try out to make your practice schedule more efficient and improve your progress?

Top goals:

Individual Goals for items:

Item -------------> Goals:

Ear training -------> Work on minor 2nd and Major 2nd

Visualization ------> Work on memorizing 2nd inversion of A throughout pentatonic scales

Technique -------->  Focus on releasing the tension in my left hand thumb

Rhythm -----------> Focus on hearing 16th notes patterns combined with rests

extra, extra

Monday: Available time: 20 minutes
10 mins: Visualization
5 mins: Ear training
5 mins Rhythm

Tuesday: Available time: 15 minutes
10 mins: Rhythms
10 mins: Technique session
5 mins: Rhythm

Wednesday: Available Time: 20 minutes
10 mins: Technique session
5 mins Ear training
5 mins Visualization

Thursday: Available time: 15 minutes
5 mins: Rhythm
10 mins: Technique session

Friday: Available time: 20 minutes
10 mins: Visualization 
5 mins: Ear training

Saturday: Available time: 15 minutes
10 mins: Technique session
5 mins: Ear training 
5 mins: Visualization

Sunday: Available time 20 minutes
20 min: Technique session

Comments, questions and things to add:
-

About the Author:
By Chris Glyde. http://rochesterguitarlessons.com.
More cgglyde lessons:
+ Beginners, Don't Fret the Fretboard For Beginners 09/16/2014
+ How to Correctly Learn a Song Correct Practice 09/15/2014
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