Practice time

The intense concentration that playing the guitar and becoming a musician requires will only be achieved through proper, consistent, and well focused practice.

In the very beginning of the learning process the student should pay close attention to the direction of a skilled and capable instructor. Over time through consistent and disciplined practice each students skills will grow at his or her own rate and eventually the student will be able to assess their own progress and find out what specific practice and performance techniques work best them on a regular basis. But initially it is best to rely on the instruction of a music professional.

Classical Strum

“Learning a musical instrument is like climbing up a cliff with no visible top. Like a rock climber, at times it is necessary to move laterally before moving upward. Other times it may be necessary to rest and regroup or even move down a step before you continue. Remember, a pattern of two steps forward and one step back is still progress.” Proper practice teaches us to focus on the spirit of moving forward while we acquire new strategies and skills to complete our musical goals.

There is no “one” true parameter of recommended practice time which applies to all students in every musical situation regarding how much they need to practice each day or in week. But obviously the greatest overall understanding, appreciation and skill when playing the guitar will develop by putting in the most properly focused practice hours!

With this in mind the beginner student should devote a minimum of proper well-focused practice for 30 to 45 minutes a day, 3 to 5 days each week. It is usually more beneficial to practice at least two or three days in a row rather than skipping a day in between practice sessions. It may be appropriate for a student to take a day off from practicing and let the mind process the information being studied, and do what musicians call “burning it in”, so that each student can access the knowledge they’ve gained whenever and however they choose to use it.

“Discipline governs how we train, when we train and what we do with our training.” Here is a great saying in regard to discipline, “Do what has to be done when it has to be done, as well as it can be done, and do it that way every time.” Basically whatever goal you set, follow – through is essential. “It is human nature to anticipate the finish, the attainment of a goal. But in doing so we can easily lose track of the present moment and the task at hand.” A chinese proverb says, “In a hundred mile march ninety nine miles is about the half way point.”

Expertise at playing the guitar may only be gained through the process and overall experience that practicing and performing will bring. Practice and performance are interconnected like the weave in a piece of a fabric. Both practice and performance feed off each other. Confidence and skill gained from practice and performance teaches students at all ages and abilities what works best and what doesn’t work well at all in a variety of musical situations. Any absolute knowledge obtained can be applied to develop and shape the unique approach and style of each individual guitar player.

Students must take care not to make mistakes, but when they happen they should learn from them. A well known saying among artists is, “When things fall apart, make art”. That pretty much sums it up. After hitting a wrong note, play the correct note over again several times like you really mean it!

“We all have limitations. What’s required is that we test these limits, push them, and finally know and accept them. This does not mean to become complacent in the study of guitar.” Those who say, “I have no need for music theory” or “I don’t ever care to learn a diminished chord”, are really just shutting themselves off from learning. One new chord or musical concept could open up a whole new world of possibilities, musical and otherwise.

Living a healthy lifestyle is definitely connected to a students overall ability to comprehend and execute the techniques that they’re studying on the guitar with greater efficiency. It makes a lot of sense for students to develop good eating, sleeping and physical exercise habits so that they will have the necessary energy and mental focus to put toward daily practice sessions and performances.

If the student is willing to work hard, up to their potential, every student will eventually see great results in their guitar playing and overall musicianship.

So take your time, make sure each step is thoroughly understood before moving on, and most of all, enjoy the invaluable process of studying music. Good luck!

“This time, like all times is a very good one if we but know what to do with it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson


* Please note that some ideas that were discussed in this section came from a book called “Zen Guitar” by Philip Toshio Sudo, which I highly recommend.