Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Guitar Practice or Are You Just Wasting Time?

Do you like to debate minutiae instead of working on your craft? Let's stop that and learn how to get outstanding results by practicing smart.

Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Guitar Practice or Are You Just Wasting Time?
I believe that quality of your practice time matters much more than quantity. Checking the quality of your practice session is more important than counting how many minutes did you actually practice.

There is a catch, however.

As I found out, some aspiring guitar players are so concerned with getting everything right and so worried about making mistake, that they end up paralyzed, not knowing what to do. They are obsessed with details but at the same time they are losing the big picture from the sight.

Quality doesn't really matter if you practice 5 minutes a day. You won't become a phenomenal guitar player no matter how focused your 5 minute practice session is. If you are aiming for quality, it also has to go hand in hand with decent quantity. How much you need to practice depends on your goals and aspirations.

If you are too concerned whether you are doing everything right, here's what I want you to do.

The 85% solution

I got this thought from Ramit Sethi, the founder of famous personal finance blog I will teach you to be rich. He applies this solution when he talks about getting your money under control, but it also works perfectly fine with guitar practice.

The idea is very simple, here's how it goes:

Getting started to get your guitar practice under control is more important than being perfect right from the beginning.

What we want to do is to get 85% right and just forget the rest. We don't need to obsess over every detail right now. Learning how to practice properly is a skill that you have to develop. And yes, it takes time.

If your are too concerned whether your are doing everything right, relax. No matter how hard you try, you won't be perfect. That's just the way it is. Perfectionism is a sure way to failure and frustration.

Optimizing your practice time can start with such a simple thing as getting a practice journal and planning your next practice session. (Now stop reading and go ahead and do that, you can thank me later :-))

Let's stop debating minutiae. We don't need to manage our practice time perfectly, let's take it one baby step at a time instead. (Did you get your journal already?)

It doesn't matter how much information you consume, if you don't apply what you have learned. And you haven't learned anything, until you've changed the way you practice.

Getting better results is about testing different approaches and experimenting with various practice strategies to see what works and what doesn't. It is not about reading, it's about deliberately improving the way you learn and practice.

The most important step is to practice consistently - 5 or 6 times a week. If you are not doing that, stop worrying whether you should learn A mixolydian or B harmonic minor scale first. It doesn't freaking matter. Once your practice regimen is consistent, start worrying about more advanced stuff. You have to find time for your guitar practice no matter how busy you are.

Get the important things right and don't try to be perfect. The more you learn, the more you see how imperfect you are. And that's the beauty.

And last but not least, enjoy your practice session.

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    I agree that perfectionism is bad. And you should practice 5-6 times a week. I myself haven`t really had any problems with practicing, I just want to play the guitar. The most important thing is that you want to play, I play the guitar every day, not because "I have to practice" but because i love it. The more you play, the better you get. My personal recommendation would be to learn songs. The more songs you got under your belt, the better you feel. Cheers, MarX
    Or are you too busy reading about what someone has to say about practice instead of just doing it..?
    Nice article... and yeah... LOVE playing, or simply don't play. And if you love it, you'll find a way.
    Good advice, I sort of figured this out myself recently. Personally, I worry less about the "percentage," because what does that even mean really? You can't really apply that to every sort of thing someone might be trying to learn, because it's less about "how much of a riff/song you can play," it's more about how confident you are in your ability to play it through. For me, that percentage is a representation of how much further you still have to go, what work you still have to do. But for anyone who is serious about trying to get better, what's important is that you're actually going and practicing and recognizing your strengths and flaws; there will be times where, by not putting the guitar down and coming back to that tricky lick later on, you end up hurting yourself by not acknowledging that you've got a good chunk of the "big picture," and subsequently spending more time being a perfectionist instead of continuing to actually learn. The way I see it is, as long as you can say you've made progress by the time you stop practicing, you're in good shape.
    Well, how should i know what to include in my practice session ? Theory? Scales? Chords? Improvisation? Phrasing? All of it? My actual question would be : What should be included in a metal guitarist practise session?
    You should definitely include sweep picking and arpeggios, especially if you are interested in playing lead.
    Ok, add that, but, which part of it all should be included? As you know there is so much material that a lot of people get overwhelmed (me included).
    This is what I suggest: Step 1: Set a metronome to a comfortable speed, around 60 bpm. Step 2: Create a 4 bar lick/ pattern involving a technique you want to improve. Step 3: Play this in different positions on the neck (4th fret, 12th fret, 8th fret, etc) Step 4: Repeat this pattern a lot until it becomes really natural. Step 5: Make it as musical as possible. Make it sound great Do this over and over with different patterns/ licks/ phrases/ melodies to improve your technique and create your own style while doing so. I find it is also a lot more fun than playing preset patterns over and over. Make them unique, challenging, and interesting sounding. If you like them enough you can even use them while creating solos or writing music. If not, you still improved your technique while developing your own sound.