A Shred Odyssey: Part 2 (Finding Extra Practice Time)

The second in a series of lessons designed to teach newcomers and more experienced guitarists alike to take charge of their progress. This lesson focuses on getting more practice time in without having to sacrifice other things.

Ultimate Guitar
Welcome back, shredsters! In the last lesson, we discussed the concept of Self-Mastery and how we can apply that concept to our guitar playing. This time around, we'll be discussing different ways to get extra practice time in without having to sacrifice other things that we enjoy. 

Working toward a mastery of your instrument certainly takes time, but you don't have to sit with a metronome and practice for ten hours a day enjoy rapid progress! Most of us have other commitments to keep, and all of us need a little bit of relaxation every now and then. For those reasons, I'd like to share three easy ways to get more practice each day without having to make ANY sacrifices:

Before we get started, it's very important that you only use these methods for things that you're already familiar with (things that you've practiced many times before).

Practice picking without your guitar

This may seem a little bit odd to some, but it is possible to work on your guitar playing without actually having a guitar in your hand. I'll often practice basic picking motions against my stomach when I'm walking, driving (watching the road, not my hand of course) or just standing around talking. Try keeping a pick on you at all times, or just imagine yourself holding one when you do this. It sounds crazy, but it does help!

Practice basic fingering patterns on your arm

Again, it may be weird, but it works! This is especially useful for practicing scale patterns because it helps your fingers get better at basic movements. Hold your right arm (left if you're a lefty) up so that your forearm simulates a guitar neck.

Practice while watching Television

This is perhaps the easiest and most beneficial of the three. Our foundations lie in the basics, and sometimes the basics can be painfully boring to practice. This is where your T.V. time can come in handy. When you sit down to watch your favorite show or movie, unplug your guitar and take it with you! Pick something simple and practice it slowly and evenly while allowing your attention to focus on whatever it is you're watching. For example: yesterday, I was working on a simple alternate picking exercise while watching a documentary on Egypt's king Tutankhamen. For two and a half hours, I sat there immersed in the program without even realizing that I was practicing the whole time!

Combined together, these three methods have the potential to add hours to your daily practicing. The best part is that you don't have to sacrifice any extra time to do so! Every extra minute that we spend working on our playing adds more fuel to the fire of progress!

That's all for now. Try implementing these simple methods along with your daily practicing, and you'll see the results!

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    One idea which I have taken up is just carrying a guitar everywhere. You can then play at bus stops, in takeaways, pubs, or just stop somewhere in a field/park and play for a bit.
    Some time ago I watch this video that explains the "Practice basic fingering patterns on your arm": Como passar uma música sem instrumento? - Dica do Candô - TV Cifras
    (it's in portuguese-BR) Elongating the fingers: Alongando os Dedos Para Tocar Melhor (aula de guitarra)
    (at 2:10min) Here's in english: greg irwin finger fitness
    "Practice basic fingering patterns on your arm":
    I hadn't ever thought about the TV idea, now that it's been said it feels so obvious I feel dumb for not realising it before! These lessons are becoming one of the cornerstones of my back to basics venture, keep it up man!
    I'm very glad that you've found these lessons helpful so far! Now that this one is up, I'll begin working on the next one! Thank you very much for your comment! The fact that you've taken the time to let me know that you're enjoying this motivates me even more!
    Practicing while watching TV should be done very cautiously. There is more possibility of developing bad habits, and it is more difficult to work on "tone" development. I would encourage, put the guitar down when you want. Go watch TV. Resume focused practice. Its not about getting more time in, its about making the time you use the highest quality.
    As long as a person still takes time to hone technique I see no problem in working out the finger muscles while distracted. This can help when trying to increase dexterity, speed, flexibility and such.
    Too bad you can't practice while masturbating..
    'DC fan
    It helps with your downpicking
    It is possible. Tap with your left or strum with your right. Or you could play guitar while having sex, that's if she's up to it of course.
    What happened to my comment?
    I'm not sure which comment you're talking about, but I see the first one, the video and the one I'm replying to. Either way, thank you for sharing the video! Practicing on my arm was something that I just kind of discovered on my own, but it's nice to see that others do it two. It let's me know that I'm not crazy! hahaha
    Where's part 3?!