Every guitar player, whether just beginning or accomplished needs a good practice strategy. Yes, this is a real thing. I have found through years of teaching the guitar that most guitar students feel that they can practice the guitar “whenever they feel like playing”. I can assure you that this type of practice schedule will not yield the best results. Casting your practice routine to the wind will work against building the chops that you are after. This type of practicing often results in missed days of practice and longer warm-up periods during each practice.
Missing days between practices results in “muscle memory fade” or loss of your ability to execute something that you just worked up to playing during your last practice. It is vital that the guitar student not only practice daily but also strive to minimize the time you are not playing between practice sessions.
Developing a great practice strategy takes a bit of time and some work but it can pay off big time in the end. The first thing to consider is “how much time do I need to spend each week playing the guitar”? I feel that you need to practice your guitar daily, on average at least 30 mins per day, every day (more if you want to become really proficient). I also feel that two practices with several hours between each practice works better than just a single practice per day. Let me explain why.
Let’s consider Player 1 that plays his guitar every day at the same time, 9:00 to 9:30 each morning. This player ends his practice at 9:30 and then does not touch the guitar until the next morning at 9:00. This results in 23.5 hours of downtime (not playing) every day. What happens in 23.5 hours off from playing the guitar? Muscle memory fade, the player is losing some of the ability’s he has gained because he has been off the guitar for so many hours. This means that the first third to half of his next practice will be spent just trying to recover the things that he has lost by not playing for so many hours (longer warm up). This practice schedule also yields only 7 memories per week to draw from (much harder to recall the things that you are learning).
Now let’s look at player 2, she practices her guitar 15 minutes twice each day. She plays from 10:00 to 10:15 each morning and then again from 10:30 to 10:45 every night. The total time spent practicing is the same, thirty mins each day but this practice schedule has advantages over player 1’s routine. First, the downtime between practices has been greatly reduced, only about 12 hours off the guitar between practices! She will experience only half the muscle memory fade of player 1. The second benefit of player 2’s schedule is that she has 14 memories to draw from over the same one week period. This will result in a better ability to remember (better recall) the things that she has practiced simply because she has more memories to draw from. I have seen the results from this type of “shotgun” practice schedule time and time again, it works.
How can you make this work for you? To form your own practice strategy I would start by looking at your regular weekly routine, what time of day do you get up? Hours that you spend in school or at work, time spent eating or with friends, homework schedule, downtime, the time you get to bed, ect.. all need to be considered. Try printing out a calendar sheet for the month and fill in all the items that you need to spend time on each day. Now look for the open times that you can schedule your guitar practices in. As you start practicing with this new schedule, write down your practice time as you complete it so you can see that you are sticking to the schedule. I know that this may seem like overkill but trust me the results of this planning are worth the time it takes to set up. Many times I have seen students that were struggling become very accomplished players simply by applying these techniques.
Having a great practice strategy will make you a better player and it’s Guitar Animal approved!