1. BE CONSISTENT.
It is far better to practice a little every day, or at least most days, than to do a marathon session one day, only to burn out or get injured and then not practice for two weeks. Practicing is like cooking food in a pot. If you let the fire under the pot die, the food will never get cooked. But if the fire is too hot, the food will get burnt.
2. HAVE SPECIFIC GOALS.
Practicing means deliberately aiming for a specific result. Like an athlete’s training program, your practice must be structured and planned out, and done with goals in mind. Therefore, it’s essential to keep a ‘practice log’ in which you record everything you do and what you are aiming to improve at each practice session, if you want to maximize your results.
You must prioritize your practice time and, barring real emergencies, do your best to stick to it. In life there will be many people and activities making demands on your time. The only way to make sure you get your practice time in, is to make it a priority and not let anything else keep you from it. You must do what’s necessary to make time for practice. This might mean waking earlier than usual, or staying up a little later. Often it only requires cutting out from some other unproductive ‘leisure’ habits, like watching too much TV or wasting time on social media.
When you practice, stay 100% focused on what you want to achieve. Do not let your mind wander on unrelated things. Learn to shut everything else out when it’s time to practice. Do not be tempted to play bits of songs here and there (unless they are part of your practice schedule) or just ‘doodle’ around on the guitar. Mindless doodling is not practice. Again, even 30 minutes or less of deliberate focused practice are better than many hours of aimless tinkering.
5. ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS
When you practice, seek to eliminate all external distractions. Tell anyone living with you that they should not disturb you during practice time. Practice in a quiet place without any
sources of distraction: no television, no radio, no internet, and definitely no smart phones. Treat your practice time with the respect and seriousness it deserves.
6. PRACTICE FOR YOUR BENEFIT ONLY.
It’s best not to have anyone else present in the room when you practice (unless they are your teacher or practice partner), otherwise you will be tempted to turn your practice session into a performance. When you perform, your main concern becomes ‘looking good’. You are afraid of sounding ‘repetitive’ or ‘boring’ and become more concerned with being ‘entertaining’ than with doing what you’re supposed to. Productive practicing requires the opposite approach: you must ruthlessly uncover your weaknesses and work on them over and over. Real practicing involves making mistakes and ‘sounding boring’. If having someone watch you makes you self- conscious and takes you off the path, it will hinder your progress greatly.
7. CREATE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT.
Create the most ‘user friendly’ setup and environment you can. The easier it is to just go and practice right now, the more likely it will be that you actually do it. Imagine if practicing guitar requires you to first go fish your guitar out of its case stored in the closet, then go look for the guitar cable, then go and get the amplifier out of the other closet in the other room, only to realize that someone took your mains cable so you must go find it too…oh, and just where did you leave your tuner and picks? It’s obvious how this scenario will end up. All that hassle and setting up time may just be enough to discourage you from even beginning a practice session. Whereas if your guitar is already out on a stand, cable already connected to the amplifier which is already plugged in so all you need to do is switch it on and pick up the guitar, you’ll find it far easier to start. This is called ‘setting yourself up for success’. Make it as easy as possible to do what you are supposed to do.
I saved the most important one for last. No matter what you do, you will need to stick it out for the long term to see big results. Rome was not built in one day, and neither will you. Results do not come linearly. There will be times when you seem to struggle for a long time without much visible progress. But that’s exactly when you need to exercise persistence and patience. Keep plugging at it intelligently and consistently, and you will have the breakthroughs in progress which you are after.
So there you have it. Eight principles that are guaranteed to supercharge your progress.
To summarize: Be consistent, have specific goals, prioritize, focus, eliminate distractions, practice for your benefit only, create the right environment, and persist.
Now go and practice!
About the author:
Aldo Chircop is a guitarist, composer, producer and guitar teacher based in Malta. He is president and chief instructor of Malta Rock Academy, home of the best blues, rock and metal guitar lessons in Malta: