4 ESSENTIAL THINGS TO PRACTICE ON GUITAR WHEN DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO PRACTICE

 

BY JON CHORBA

 

Do you sometimes find yourself not having enough time to practice the guitar? Do you sometimes skip practicing guitar for the day because you say to yourself “well…I’m only going to get 15 minutes of practice today, so it’s not even worth it?” What if I told you there are 4 simple things that you can do on days where you don’t have enough time to practice the guitar, would you believe me?

 

Listen, I know that we all can get busy and I know that if you are like most of my students, guitar is a fun hobby, not a full time career. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to squeeze the most out of every minute out of your guitar practice session, even if it’s only just 15 minutes?

 

The first thing that we have to do before we go any further is we have to admit the truth. The truth is that you have AT LEAST 15 minutes everyday to practice guitar. If you think that you don’t have 15 minutes a day to practice, then you are a big ol’ liar walking around with your pants on fire! Seriously, how much time do you spend on watching TV per day? How much time do you spend surfing the interwebs or playing on you smarty-phone? If you are like the average person in America, you watch 2 hours of TV/day and another hour surfing the net/playing on your super phone. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, you can take 7 ½ minutes away from the Law & Order: SVU Marathon on USA Network to practice your guitar? Stabler and Benson will be there when you get back, I promise. How about taking another 7 ½ minutes away from the super phone? Here…use the word “Xenophobe” in Words With Friends. Good, now you won…go pick up your guitar! How about sleeping? The majority of Americans sleep their lives away. What if you woke up 7 ½ minutes earlier and went to bed 7 ½ minutes later? Do you think that could work?

 

Now that we know that you can find the 15 minutes everyday to practice, we could take the next step. It’s the hardest step to take and even when you take it a few times it’s hard to take it consistently. You have to commit to practicing everyday. I know, some days you will be tired. I know, some days you will have a lot going on. However, think with the end in mind. Don’t focus on today but rather focus on the future when you are playing the guitar EXACTLY how you have always wanted to. You don’t get to that goal by taking one big action. You get there by taking little actions constantly and consistently.

 

So I know, ideally, that you want to probably practice 30-60 min every day but as we already talked about sometimes that is not possible but we also found that we can carve out at least 15 minutes. So, what are going to do with those 15 minutes? To get the most out of a short practice session, we want to focus on one of these for main concepts: Isolation of Weakest Areas of Technique, Integration of Skills, Real Life Situational Guitar Playing, and Ear Training. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you should practice all four topics in one 15-minute session. I am saying you could pick just one of these concepts and practice just that for your 15 minute practice session. Working on any one of these areas for 15 minutes is obviously better than doing nothing at all and it is better than noodling around and/or practicing something you are already proficient at playing.

 

Let’s take a look at what each concept is and how to implement it in to your short practice sessions.

 

Isolation of Weakest Areas of Technique – We all have areas of our guitar playing that we want to improve, but what I want you to do is pick the top 3 technical areas where you feel that you are really weak at and then write them down. This could be anything from changing chords, scale memorization, directional picking, mitigating extraneous string noise, etc. Obviously, it is going to differ from person to person. For me, I would probably pick sweep picking, string skipping, and legato playing as areas that I feel I am weak at. So what I would do, and what I want you to do, is to pick 2 or 3 exercises in each of the 3 technical areas of your playing and keep them on file near where you practice. I keep all my practice materials on files on my computer but a lot of my students print their stuff out and keep it in binders. Either way, just make sure your organized and you could pull up these exercises immediately and without having to search for them. This way, when you are short on time, you can focus on turning your weakness into a strength without having to waste any time figuring out what to practice. Since we’ve isolated 3 areas and have 2 or 3 ideas per area, we also have some variety involved so that boredom won’t be an issue.

 

Integration of Skills – This is my personal favorite thing to practice and it is something that my Guitar Team program focuses heavily on. It’s the one area of practicing that can completely supercharge your guitar playing and get you awesome results faster. What it involves is taking 2 or 3 techniques or concepts and integrating them together, usually by playing one technique seamlessly into another. An excellent way to integrate guitar soloing concepts, for example, would be to take the concepts of fretboard memorization, scale sequences, and music theory (in this case, knowing what notes are contained in certain chords in a given progression) and combing all of these skills into one big exercise. Let’s say we found or created a backing track in the key of Am and it has the chords Am-G-F. A way to practice integration of the aforementioned skills would be to play any scale sequence that you may know that starts on the root note of each of the chords in the progression and then change your position on the guitar every time the chord changes. So, when the Am chord starts, I’d start at the root note of the chord on the D string (7th fret) and play the scale sequence. When the chord changes to G, I am now going to move to the high E string and find the root note for the G chord (3rd or 15th fret) and play my sequence. When the chord changes to F, I am going to find the F root note on the B string (6th fret) and play my sequence. Of course, you can change a whole bunch of things about this exercise to make it easier or harder for yourself, but by practicing in this way for 15 minutes, you are combining a whole bunch of different skills together and getting way more out of your time than if you just haphazardly noodled around.

 

Real Life Situational Guitar Playing – This one is a fun thing to practice. It’s also a super important thing to practice if you play in a band, but so many guitar players neglect to do it and they end up frustrated when it’s time to rehearse or perform live. What this concept involves is trying to recreate the situations of playing live to the best of your ability. This includes switching from playing rhythm guitar to playing lead and I’m not just talking about the physical act of making that switch, but changing your pickup selection and hitting effect pedals. More often than not when a guitar player switches from playing a rhythm part to playing a solo, they usually switch the pickup from the bridge to the neck and probably step on a pedal to either add more gain or boost the volume slightly. They might even activate a Wah-Wah pedal. I know from personal experience that not practicing those maneuvers can make you look real stupid and foolish in a band setting! Don’t be like me and get laughed at…practice stomping on pedals and changing your pickup selection and get it seamless. Also, it’s a good idea to recreate some similar issues in a live situation. It’s really easy to play great when you can see and hear everything perfectly, but guess what? Not every stage and venue is going to sound like your bedroom. Things will go wrong. You might not be able to see your guitar or you might not be able to hear other key instruments to give yourself clues as to where you are in the song. So, practice in the dark. Practice to backing tracks that have key elements of the song removed. Pick a random part in the song to start and try to jump in. Doing these things in practice can save your butt big time when it’s time to do it for real!

 

Ear Training – This is something that you could do with or without a guitar and developing your ear is absolutely critical to becoming a good guitar player. One of the things I have a lot of my students do is to head over to Good-Ear.com and run through exercises that are suitable for their current skill level. This great for those of you that are addicted to surfing the net! Instead of taking a BuzzFeed quiz, run through some ear training drills! You can also work on your ear training while you are driving your car or listening to your iPod while walking or working out. Some of my students get audio files to work on areas of their ear training but you could do some ear training while listening to your favorite songs. This is a good exercise that I put my beginner and intermediate students through: put on a song you like and count the quarter notes, then count in eighth notes, then triplets, then sixteenth notes, then try to count combinations. This could be easy or hard depending on the feel and tempo of the song, but it is something you could do away from your guitar.

 

See? It’s not hard to find the time to get 15 minutes of practice in during even the most hectic of days and now that you know what to do with these short practice sessions, you could keep your progress moving forward. If you want more help specific to your challenges and goals, come in for a FREE introductory private lesson and find out what you need to do to overcome your challenges and reach your guitar playing goals.