How to Avoid Mediocre Results on the Guitar - Part 2: Poor Practicing Habits That Will Slow Down Your Progress

Have you stopped making progress on guitar? Here are multiple habits that will slow down your progress on the instrument. Take note of the habits you suffer from and work to break them.

Ultimate Guitar
Every guitar player has heard the words practice makes perfect. Unfortunately this is not entirely true. Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. You can "practice" for eight hours a day for years and still be a mediocre guitar player.

The opposite is true as well. If you learn how to properly practice guitar you can make rapid progress. You'll become a much better guitar player faster by getting in one hour of great practice rather than 8 hours of bad practice.

In order to learn how to practice properly, you first must know what not to do. Avoiding these 7 habits will make a vast difference in your progress as a guitar player.

Playing instead of practicing guitar

What if I told you that what you are doing to practicing guitar really isn't practicing? When you go to practice do you just spend time aimlessly trying to play songs?

If this is a yes and you are just spending time strumming through songs, then you are NOT practicing. You are PLAYING guitar.

You might be asking yourself right now "what's the difference?" Well when we practice guitar we are: isolating problems, applying new concepts, and building on skills. When you are playing guitar, you are simply playing music. Your hands are moving, but there's no real focus on improving any skills. 

Focusing too much on new material

The second pitfall for players is always craving and looking for new content or material to work on. In most cases, you don't need more exercises. What you need to do is learn how to master these exercises. So if you find yourself in a rut, don't look for a new exercise, instead figure out how to practice your current exercises better.

Going through the motions

Every second you spend practicing should be goal oriented and focused. Many people do not develop goals for their practice. Due to this their practicing becomes mindless and stale.

If you don't know why you're practicing something then stop practicing it or find out why.

If you don't have a goal, go make one.

You're never going to get anywhere, unless you're actively trying to get somewhere. Without goals or the knowledge to know why you're working on an exercise, you're simply wasting your practice time.

Failure to break up large practice sessions

On average, most people can only focus on something with 100% attention for about an hour.

So the trick to this is to split up large practice sessions. If you're practicing for 6 hours in one day, practice 3 hours in the beginning of the day and 3 hours later in the day.

You can even be creative with how you split this material up. Let's say you want to watch one of your favorite television shows but you also want to practice for 4 hours today. Break up your practice by practicing for 8 focused minutes. Then relax for 2 to 3 minutes by watching your favorite television show. After the 2 to 3 minutes is up, go back to practicing for another 8 straight focused minutes.

You will be surprised how focused these minutes are and how much you'll grow by implementing this.

Be cautious though, the time your going to need to take a break between these 8 minutes may vary. I find that 2 to 3 minutes is enough to get me a bit rested, but not enough to get rid of my desire to practice.

Failing to avoid distractions

When you are practicing, you must avoid all distractions. Try to make yourself a space where you can practice without interruptions. There should be no loud noises, people yelling or even talking. It would be best to find an area where no else is present.

There should be no music playing and you should not watch television while you practice. If you have major problems maintaining practice, the strategy that I mentioned earlier will help you. You won't be practicing when the television is running, but you will still get a break to watch your show.

You might think you can multitask but in my opinion there is no such thing. Multitasking is merely switching your focus from one thing to another.

Failing to avoid boring practice routines

Many people practice the same exercises and develop the same areas of their guitar skills every day. You should never do this. You will quickly get bored of your practice sessions. If you grow bored of your practicing you will then stop practicing.

There are many skills you need to develop as a musician and just like going to the gym you need to hit these skills from different angles in order to continually progress.

Failing to set up a practice schedule

I won't go into to much detail about this step. If you desire to read more about creating a practice schedule, you can checkout my other article titled "How to Design a Practice Schedule."

To keep this simple, the act of creating a practice schedule and organizing a practice schedule will make a vast difference in your ability to progress as a guitar player. It's a basic plan that will help you reach your goals.

Failing to apply what you know

Many players practice different elements of music and guitar playing in isolation but fail to ever practice these elements together. This is a huge mistake. Until you can apply what you know to actual musical contexts you haven't learned anything. Everything needs to be applied and integrated together.

By simply avoiding these mistakes you will become a better guitar player much faster. Keep in mind there are many other articles and ways to help improve your practicing.

By Chris Glyde

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