How to Set Up a Great Practice Routine to Maximize Results

The obvious answer is the more you practice the faster you will get better, however, the quality of your practice plays a huge role in the results. 

For some people, a set time on certain days works best. For others, that type of schedule is too rigid and practicing whenever they can squeeze it in works best. 

Before you sit down to practice, have an idea of exactly what you are going to practice. It could be scales, chords, note reading, improvising, learning a song etc.   

You can practice anywhere, a practice room, living room, bedroom, or outside. It doesn’t matter where, just get the job done. 

Setting up a practice area 

Setting up a productive non-distracting practice area is critical for achieving maximum results. Here is a list of some equipment you should have in your practice space:

  • Having the correct chair is more important than you think. The more comfortable you are, the longer you are likely to sit and practice. Your legs should be positioned at a 90-degree angle so the guitar doesn’t slide down your leg and the chair should not have arms that get in the way of the guitar. You may also want to spend some time practicing standing up, playing guitar while standing feels a bit different than sitting. 
  • It is also a good idea to make sure you have a comfortable guitar strap that is adjusted to the correct length. You can “wear” your guitar at any height, as long as it is comfortable to play. 
  • A guitar stand that is secure and easy to get your guitar in and out of. 
  • A clip-on or pedal tuner. Keeping your guitar in tune and up to pitch is important. You will be in tune with the songs you are figuring out, it keeps the proper tension on the guitar so the neck stays straight, when the tension on the strings is consistent techniques like bending strings will also always feel the same. You will also train yourself to recognize pitches. 
  • Music Stand - A good adjustable and sturdy music stand that can hold several books, and a pen or pencil and your metronome. 
  • Metronome - A metronome is a great tool. It is not just about tracking the tempo you play but it also helps train you to play in time. 
  • A small practice amp. Just dial in a sound that you like and start practicing. Don’t get too caught up in crafting your tone for a practice session.  

If your practice session includes learning a song from the audio you should be sitting near your computer with decent speakers so you can clearly hear the music. You also want easy access to start, stop and replay functions. Just keep it simple and be careful to not get caught up in other computer work. 

Have a plan of what you are going to work on before you sit down to practice. If you want to be really organized, you could map out the practice schedule for the whole week. Here is an example. 

Play through scales in as many positions and keys as you have time for. Find the tempo you can play with little or no mistakes and take notes so you can track your progress.   

Next, work on chord progressions. First use open string chords, then bar chords, triads etc. After that, you can do a little note reading and then wrap up with learning a song by ear. 

If you stick to a well-designed practice routine, you are guaranteed to see improvements by the week or even by the day. Stay disciplined and start your practice with the things you like the least and get them out of the way. 

Practicing every day is the best but if you can only get in a few days a week that’s fine. It’s just like exercising, a little is always better than nothing.    

If you are practicing on an electric guitar plug your guitar into an amp and keep your setup simple. Don’t start fooling around with the setting and effects. If your surroundings are quiet enough you can even play your electric guitar unplugged simply to create fewer distractions.  I practice this way all the time.

If you are practicing on an acoustic, just pick it up and get started. 

Books 

There are so many great instructional books out there. Look for books covering specific subjects. Note reading, chords, scales, intervals, arpeggios, styles etc. (Click for an amazing list of recommended books) pick one to three books, or whatever you have time for and get started. 

Don’t be afraid to write in your books, you can write metronome marks, ideas, dates, keys that you played through etc. 

Keep an assignment book. If you are taking lessons from a teacher, make sure they write an assignment that you understand. If you are studying on your own, write down your assignment for the week and be detailed with page numbers, goals, metronome marks and as many details as you need to remember what you should be working on. 

Find people to play with. Getting in a band or just jamming with friends for fun can help you get to the next level of playing.

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