One of the recurring themes that I often hear from students and fellow guitarists is that they often find difficulty in finding the time to spend with the guitar.This actual (or sometimes perceived) lack of time can then impact on achieving what you want to achieve, like ironing out trouble spots. I say as you may be surprised at what can be achieved in a relatively short space of time with the right kind of approach. I thought I’d share a couple of ideas that I frequently put into practice. Hopefully they can help. Make a bit of a plan
Yes, making a plan sounds as dull as dishwater and I’m not suggesting that you sit down and write out a full-on strategy for your practice session (although if this floats your boat, feel free to go for it!), but try and approach each of your practice sessions with some kind of a goal in mind. As I’ve said in a previous post, intention counts for A LOT in music and your approach to playing and making that music. Go bite sized with it
You’ll probably have some larger goal such as learning a particular piece, preparing for an exam or putting a programme together. That big “end goal” can seem pretty overwhelming at times. As such, I find it helps to chop that larger goal up into smaller, bite-sized pieces. The bite-sized pieces might be things you think you could reasonably achieve in one or to of your practice sessions. This could be memorising a phrase, deciding on a favoured phrasing or coloring for a section, getting your fingers mechanically around a new section or a seemingly tricky section (whilst also working in the musciality of what you’re trying to play, of course!).
Resistance is not useless!
Really try to resist the temptation to play through a difficult, tricky or “fluffy” section. I, of all people, know how difficult this can be. Believe me! I am soooo guilty of playing through, but this year I made a New Years resolution to do a favour to myself and not just play through, but stop and work it out; perhaps not to 100% perfection, but a considerable degree towards solving the issue, making it easier to play the next time. You can play that “easy” stuff already, so this is about maximizing your time with the stuff you really need to focus on. Of course the earlier on in learning a piece that you can address those tricky bits, the less likely they are to become embedded in the brain as “tricky”.
For those times, when you’re really stuck for time, and it does happen, 5 or 10 minutes is better than no minutes at all. You might be surprised at what can be achieved in a wee block of time like this – reaffirming a scale pattern or your muscle memory for a scale pattern (very, very useful), working out a tricky left or right hand movement, testing your memorization of a piece or part of a piece.
What tactics do you use to maximise the time you have available to practice?
Feel free to comment below.