1. Set clear, specific practice goals.
- Do you have clear goals for your playing? If you're like me, you might discover that you haven't had clear goals about where you want to go with your playing. Simply "getting better" is not a good goal. What exactly do you want to "get better" at?
- Assess where you're at as a player. What are you already good at, and what do you need to work on to reach your goals?
- So with that in mind, what are your goals as a player? Is there a certain style of music that you want to work on mastering? Do you want to play with friends? Do you want to be a rhythm or lead player? What type of player do you want to be?
- Be specific with your goals, AND WRITE THEM DOWN!At the top of each Practice Log linked to above, you will find the space to write several goals to work on over each 28 day period. Choose these on your own, or with the help of a teacher, and focus your practice directly on improving your playing towards those goals.
2. Improve the quantity of your practice time.
- How much have you been practicing? If you're like me, you might discover that you haven't been practicing nearly as much as you think. Until I started recording my practice time on the Practice Log above, I had no idea how little I was truly practicing.
- Record your practice time! Right now, can you say exactly how much you've practiced over the last week? One of the biggest things holding me back was that I was not practicing NEARLY ENOUGH! Simply owning an instrument and occasionally picking it up is likely not going to get you to your goals. You can plink around on a instrument FOR YEARS and not make any significant improvement, which leads to LOTS OF FRUSTRATION and the feeling you'll never improve.
- Practice daily! THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR DAILY PRACTICE! Phenomenal musicians are nothing more than "normal" people who have logged the countless hours it takes to master an instrument. Trumpet master Louis Armstrong once said,
"If I don't practice for a day, I know it. If I don't practice for two days, the critics know it.
And if I don't practice for three days, the public knows it."
- Use a timer! One of the biggest game changers for me has been setting a timer on my watch or phone, EVERY TIME I PRACTICE, and recording the number of minutes I've practiced. With the Practice Log above, I am now keeping tabs on how many hours I practice each week, how many times I practice each week, how many hours I practice over four week periods.
3. Improve the quality of your practice time.
- Focus your practice time on your goals. So many of us players find ourselves playing the things we're already good at during our practice time. This makes us even better at the things we're good at, but the problem is that the better we get at the things we're already good at, the less we want to practice the things that we're not good at. I think that this is one of the biggest causes of the dreaded "playing plateaus", where we keep playing, but don't ever seem to improve.
- Make your practice time sacred! So often during my practice time, I would stop playing to check emails, check notifications on my phone, etc. Now, once I put the timer on, I am working on nothing but my playing goals. The best part is that I've found that 30 minutes of focused practice is worth hours of the distracted playing I used to do. If you're like me and have a family, then you should PAUSE YOUR TIMER when the family needs something right away. You can still be a good family member, and be a good practicer. :-)
- Remember, there are no magic shortcuts! There are tools that can help you along the way, which is the goal of tools like Fretboard Toolboxes, but there is not tool that really lets you "learn guitar in 30 days". You can make some good progress in 30 days, but to truly master an instrument, it takes THOUSANDS OF HOURS!
Simply put, if you want to play much better, then play much more!
Setting clear goals, improving the quantity of time you practice, and improving
the quality of your practice time will make A HUGE difference in your playing!
Three Big Ways to Improve Your Playing:
3 Big Ways to Improve Your Playing: