How to Organize Your Guitar Practice LONG TERM

Autor: Eric Dieter

The longer you play guitar, the more information and practice materials you’re going to get. How do you stay consistent in the practice room while still managing to cover new ground and learn new songs? I’m so glad you asked…

Stop Focusing on the Song

I like to think about myself as a video game character interacting in a musical world. Every time I practice something, I gain a little more stat points in that area. My stats heavily influence how I choose to play the game and vice versa. The problem that many guitar players have is that while they may think about their stats, they think about them in terms of songs rather than skills. 

Why is this a problem? Imagine it takes you 3 weeks to become a “level 17” at any one song. What will you be able to play at the end of those 3 weeks? Precisely one song. Most players will recognize a need for variety in their practice so they may seek out a 2nd or 3rd song. Problem solved, right? Well not exactly.

Assuming you don’t have infinite practice time, every minute you spend working on one song is a minute you can’t practice other songs. As time goes on, one can imagine the difficulty finding time to practice 20-30 songs. Furthermore, when you stop practicing any particular song, your stats on that song won’t just sit still; they will backslide. Neglect a song for too long and you may forget how to play it altogether. How frustrating!

Another point of note is the importance that gets placed on song selection in this scenario. Once you complete a song with this mentality, it becomes far more important to choose a new song that is the right difficulty level so that you can learn something new that’s not too easy or way too difficult. I’ve seen a lot of students spend too much time and energy worrying about what song to learn next.

Extract the Skills

What’s the solution then? Each song itself has a set of skills that are required to execute it. Consider the classic song “Iron Man.” What skills are needed to play that song? Your answer will vary depending on your skill level.

Beginners may only recognize a few skills such as “Well, there are chords, my pick is getting stuck, and I have to do it all pretty fast.” Great! Work on those stats rather than any particular song. As you improve on guitar, your eye for skills will get better. You may decide to create sub-categories for skills. Some examples:

  • Picking
    • Alternate Picking
    • Picking 2 notes at a time
  • Power chords
  • Open Position Chords
  • Timing
  • Moving quickly up the neck on one string
  • Staying on finger tips
  • Playing close to the fret

Pick Skills to Develop Consistently

The skills that you choose to work on is not as important as staying consistent with practicing them (I highly recommend working with a guitar teacher that can help you make the best decisions).

The beauty of this method of practice is that you can swap out the song with a new one, but still focus the same skill over long period of time. This is how you improve- consistent and repetitive work. Looking at my list of examples above, can you see how you can apply most (if not all) of the above skills to ANY song? Even if the new song you’re learning doesn’t have power chords, can you turn the regular chords into power chords? Can you take a small snippet of the melody and turn the melody notes into power chords?

Conclusion

Just like in a game, you don’t have to be a perfectly balanced character. You might be the type of player that likes to boost just one or two stats really high. That’s perfectly fine. You can always go back later and revisit the skills you neglected on the first play through.

A moment ago I asked what the outcome would be if you worked on one song for 3 weeks. Now imagine you extracted the skills from that song and worked on those skills for 3 weeks, applying those few skills to as many situations as possible? How good do you think you’d be now?

Go find out!

About the Author

Eric Dieter is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher in Lancaster, PA. He has appeared on dozens of international albums as a session guitar player and tours with the synth-pop and prog-rock band. Eric has studied guitar at Millersville University and Berklee College of Music. Additionally, he holds a degree in psychology and a certification in hypnosis, making him uniquely qualified to train the minds and hands of aspiring musicians. Contact Eric if you are looking for guitar lessons in Lancaster, PA.