The Importance of Routine

Talking about how and why routine makes all the difference with your playing.

Ultimate Guitar

I just read an interesting article from a Yahoo website.

The piece I am quoting talks about the best time to workout to get the best results: early in the morning for weightloss, in the afternoon for strength gain etc.

Then the end of the article has this little gem:

You want to: Set a personal record (and smoke the competition).

You should try: The same time, all the time.

Ever notice how there are workouts when everything just seems to click and you feel almost bionic? That's how you want to feel during a competition, and you'll have a better chance of that happening if you work out at the same time every day. Whether you choose to train at 6 a.m., noon or 6 p.m., the timing must be consistent so that you can rule it out as something that could affect your performance. Then you can act like your own coach, analyzing your workouts and looking for rogue factors that tend to throw you off (your pre-race snack, your stress level, the amount of sleep you got the night before). You'll have your routine down by race day, and you'll know you did everything you could to put your best self on the starting line.

It's funny, because I preach this to parents and students alike. When they ask me "how long" they should be practicing (or playing) their guitar, my response is always the same. It's not about how long, it's about when. The most important part to being successful is developing a consistent routine. For beginners, even if it's 5 minutes a day, but it's 5 minutes at 6pm or 7am or whatever, that is the path to being successful; because 5 minutes will turn into 7, into 10 etc etc.

For me, when I was growing up taking lessons, I can remember from about the ages of 8-12, my "practice" time was 5:30. Always right before dinner, just off the kitchen so my mom could make sure I was doing what I was supposed to. I'll admit, there were times when I HATED 5:30 and wanted nothing to do with my guitar, but sure enough every 5:30 rolled around, there I was sitting down with my guitar. Once I got past this "do I have to practice" stage, my guitar was almost always in my hands when I was at home. I was in so many bands so I was either practicing, rehearsing or recording. When I got to University, I again had to insert structure into a chaotic lifestyle and since I was always done school at about 2:30, my practice time went from 3:30-5:30. Then a dinner break, then from about 7:30 onward.

I have posted blogs and articles in the past about how to get the most out of this time, but really it's the routine that is by far and away the most important part. There are times that I would be happy if one of my students did nothing but "play around" on his/her guitar, but did it at exactly the same time everyday. Getting them to "practice" would be a cinch once the routine was established.

9 comments sorted by best / new / date

    this wouldn't work for me at all... I would grow to hate the guitar if I had to play the same time every day... For me, the time to play is when I'm inspired to play. I believe that if you don't get inspired to play every day, you're not really interested enough in playing the guitar.
    I agree. I think for this to really work, you have to be the type of person who enjoys routine or having a planned schedule - and many people do. Personally, I can't stand it and am repulsed by the idea of having a clock dictating my actions in life.
    For me, it's more about doing it (at minimum) for a certain amount of time a day. So, 15minutes a day, for example.
    Eh, it depends on your personality. Some people get off on doing a Steve Vai 10 hour workout everyday. But you can still learn to be good at guitar with a less structured approach.
    Decode Music
    Thank-you all for reading my posting and for offering your comments. Of course, in an ideal world we would all be "inspired" to play our guitars. The article wasn't designed for those of you that already are passionate and love learning and playing your guitar. It was more designed for parents who have younger kids in lessons. If kids don't like going to hockey practice it doesn't mean they don't like hockey and therefore should stop going. With music it's sort of the same. Kids generally don't like to practice in the first couple of years because what they are learning can be challenging - either physically or mentally. You don't stop teaching kids to do cross-overs when the are learning to play hockey because they initially don't like doing them. Besides, with kids, no matter "how into guitar" they are, there are so many competing activities ie Xbox, playing with friends, TV etc. The goal with the structure is for THOSE students who don't LOVE to practice is to at least get them to sit down with their guitar, even if for only a couple of minutes. Sure, sometimes they might just run through the bare minimum, but other times they might get the "inspiration" to try something new out or to learn a new song or whatever. The routine just holds them accountable to doing it. More often then not with parents, they will say: Practice after dinner, or you can practice after you play outside, but if the KIDs aren't held accountable to a specific time, most likely it ends up being skipped. Sorry if this came across the wrong way. For those of you that disagreed with my original post, let me know if you have kids or can think back to when you were a kid and let me know if that changes your perspective. Thanks again! I truly appreciate you all taking the time to read and comment.