Hello everybody. The subject chosen for this article is a pretty common and widely-examined one. Certainly, it is an issue that most guitar students/ players ask, struggle with and/or genuinely worry about and although such a general one, hardly can it be precisely covered in a generic way. This is mostly due to the fact that each of us is pretty different when it comes to music even if we have chosen (or been chosen if you are into metaphysics :)) to play the same instrument. So, in case you are a bit unsure about your practice approach or would like to make it even more effective, this article will be extremely useful. On the other hand, even if you feel satisfied with the practice routine that you consistently follow, still I'm sure that you'll find several applicable concepts to further refine it.
There can actually be a very short and definite answer to the hypothetical question "What should I be practicing?". This rather bold answer is: "Whatever is suggested by the good guitar teacher you already have or should be looking for." Joking aside, an experienced guitar teacher can be of infinitely bigger help than all the relative articles or books in the world (including the ones yet unwritten ;)). Needless to say that this doesn't only hold true for the beginner/ intermediate guitarists but also for the advanced ones who might feel stuck in a rut or lost due to the large volume of information provided today. A primary guitar teacher's role is to clearly identify your profile, accordingly choose and custom design the most appropriate material to fit your needs and thus save you time and headache.
Even if you already have a guitar teacher though, it definitely won't hurt to know the principles of how to effectively structure a practice routine, how and when to properly re-shape it so as to constantly progress and grow.
First of all, obvious though it might seem, write down your practice routine. This involves writing down a detailed description of both what exactly you practice (e.g. Alternate picking) and for how long you will practice it. Seriously, you might think you will clearly remember it by heart and that this is not actually an issue. Yet, even if you don't have a hard time for the time being, this won't be the case when you reach a higher level and consequently your musical needs become more complex. Then, there will be many more things to include in your schedule since you will have become familiar with a larger number of techniques and maybe a wider range of repertoire.
Secondly, a basic thing to take into account when designing your daily schedule is how many hours you actually have available for practice every day. The latter naturally leads to a bitter truth all of us will have to encounter: This amount of time will almost certainly gradually diminish mainly due to social and professional reasons. Just think about it: when at school, your time restraints are mostly defined by a limited amount of obligations that although might seem stressful at the time, there is no comparison with the ones that are about to come up in the future both time- and stress-wise. Also, whichever your main income source is, be it a purely musical or a non-musical one, it will definitely affect your available time and energy unless you find somebody crazy enough so as to pay you to just practice or you are too rich to give a... funk :) Additionally, as one progresses, he/she does not need as many hours in order to evolve both technically and musically.
Thirdly, what you practice should be prioritized according to your desired musical aims of each period. This means that if for example you aspire to become a great blues player, it would be advisable to invest more of your time to licks/ exercises focusing on expression techniques like string bending or slide than to eight finger tapping or sweep picking. This doesn't imply that the latter should be excluded from your practice schedule, since especially if you are a professional musician or want to expand your flexibility as a player, a well-rounded technique is a sine qua non. Yet, when writing down your schedule, it should be prioritized with that in mind.
Fourth, when you are at a stage where your technique is still being developed, my experience hitherto has shown that no less than 30-45 minutes should be spent at each separate section of your practice. I don't have any actual scientific evidence to back this up, but sufficient experiential data, so just trust me on that one :) I personally find it better when dividing my practice bits into time spells no bigger than 1hr and a half and take 5-minute breaks between them. In the past, these practice time spells used to be much larger and my routine wasn't as well structured. However, this was dangerous for hand injuries so I was kindly advised to take it easy, which I eagerly did. Anyway, I don't think there's a general rule for this apart from finding the chunks of time that are most comfortable for you. Again, these will be affected by the rest of your social/ professional/you-name-it obligations.
Obviously, this subject is pretty big and we are bound to have a second part on it. Of course, it would be impossible to present all the important details on that subject but I'll try to highlight some of its basic aspects. Ta-ta!
About the Author:SinniK Al is an Athens-based electric guitarist, widely known for his work with SlavEATgoD, I Bow Candles and Seduce The Heaven. Currently, he has finished recording SlavEATgoD's sophomore record "The Skyline Fission" and preparing his solo instrumental record and "I Bow Candles" sophomore record. He is officially endorsed by 39 custom guitars.