This is a subject I have some particularly direct experience of at the moment!! I’ve pretty much always had something career wise in one form or other on the go as well as classical guitar, and of course family, friends and life in general to juggle in the mix.
And I dare say that this will be the same for most of you too, dear readers. As suchI thought it might be helpful to share some of my own experiences and thoughts on this topic.
Here are my top five tips:
(1) Keep doing it. Keep going.
I know in the past I’ve said it’s important to set goals and aim for those. And I still stand to that to a degree. In addition to that I think it’s even more important think in a process mindset.
Keep picking the guitar up out of its case, every day if you can. No sweat if you can’t. As much as you’re able. Even if it’s just five minutes. Even if it’s just a couple of scales and a brief look at a tricky element you want to work out. Just doing it is vitally important. Keep the momentum going.
I read this article recently that elucidates a little further on this concept:
(2) Don’t keep apologising!
As a former teacher of primarily adult students I used to hear “oh I’m really sorry, I’ve not done much practice this week because the kids were sick/ I had to go away for work/ I was bloody knackered!/ some other permutation therein involving the busy-ness of every day life!”.
It’s all good. It’s fine. Most teachers worth their salt will completely understand – they have lives too you know!
And if you don’t have a teacher, or see them infrequently stop making yourself feel bad (I know I used to do that!). Accept that sometimes things just don’t conspire to enable you to practice. That’s OK. Accept it and let go. But also, remember to ask yourself whether it is something that’s really preventing you from practicing or whether you might be being a little bit lazy….. 😉
Don’t forget this is all about you and your journey. So what if it takes a little longer to get a piece under the fingers or whatever? No dramas.
(3) Look for the opportunities for practice
In the lead up to my Eighth Grade performance examination a number of years ago I began looking for time slots in my day where I could get a bit of extra practice in. Now admittedly at that time I probably wasn’t being the most efficient in my practice in general (which is the next tip…), but I didn’t appreciate that at the time! So, as I say, I was on the look out for extra time slots.
At the time I was working in an office in the city. We, like many offices, had an hour break for lunch. Ching!! Light bulb moment! I decided to bring in my oldest beginner guitar – just something with strings, a body and a neck basically, that I could practice technical elements on like scales, arpeggios and the like – and practice of a lunch time.
I got some interesting looks from my colleagues when I went to enter the shower and change rooms to practice (great acoustics in there!), but they understood when I explained and were very supportive.
Of course, I didn’t get to play it every single lunch time, but a couple of times a week for just 15 or 20 minutes on average which was fantastic.
And it must have done some good as I ended up getting an A in the exam! Are there time slots in your day you could use? Getting up earlier? Lunchtime? Have a look.
I didn’t end up doing that for my further studies on the guitar, AMusA and so because I’d then learnt to make my time a little more efficient which leads on to……
(4) Scrutinise what you’re doing
Are you using the five, ten, fifteen, thirty, whatever period of time as efficiently as you possibly could? Are you fluffing around? Are you playing through whole pieces where focussing on specific sections, phrases, bars or chord changes would produce better bang for your practice buck?
Take a look at that and really reduce the essence of your practice sessions down to the most concentrated elements and you might be surprised at what you can achieve in a relatively short time scale.
Putting a bit of a schedule together on when you want to practice and what you want to practice each week can also help with this.
(5) Have fun and enjoy the journey!
Sure, set your practice schedules, examine your practice efficiency and so on, but don’t forget to cut loose and have fun every now and then!! If an intense block of planned practice is just too much for your over-worked, marginally frazzled brain then skip it! Bust out your favourite piece and play that. The important thing is to enjoy yourself and play!