5 Reasons Why Guitarists Waste Most Of Their Guitar Practice Time And How To Avoid It

by Mike Philippov


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In today’s busy world, many guitar players are frustrated from not being able to practice guitar as much as they want to. Most guitar players also assume that they will never learn to play guitar well unless they can practice guitar a lot more than they do. While you may or may not be able to increase the amount of time that you have for practicing guitar, there IS one thing you can immediately do to greatly improve the results you get out of whatever amount of time you have. To do this, you need to learn how to stop “wasting” your guitar practice time.

Most guitar players waste a lot of their time spent practicing guitar. This can happen in any number of ways, from feeling paralyzed with not knowing “what” specifically to practice on guitar, to practicing ineffective materials that will not help you reach your goals or not knowing how to effectively practice the materials you already have. Yet the most common way in which most guitar players waste their practice time comes from using their mind very little (or not at all) when practicing guitar.

Your mind is the command center not only for your guitar playing but also for everything you do in life. Think of what would happen in daily life if you turned off your mind and stopped paying attention while driving your car, doing your job tasks at work or studying for school. When practicing guitar, turning off your mind and going on autopilot will result in big frustration and huge amounts of time being wasted to achieve little or no results in your guitar playing.

Below I will list 5 clues that will help you determine if you are wasting your guitar practice time. If any of the following apply to you, work on fixing these flaws in your approaches to practicing and you will see your rate of progress on guitar go up dramatically even if you are unable to increase your total guitar practice time.

1. You Do Not Watch Your Hands While Practicing Guitar

When you practice exercises for improving your guitar technique, your mind must focus on the specific skill you are trying to develop (or bad habit you are trying to correct). For example, if you are working on fixing some problem in your picking hand, you must actually look with your eyes at where the problem is happening and your mind must direct your hand to do the technique or the motion correctly. Many guitar players let their mind wander while practicing instead of being focused on the specific task at hand. The first step to identifying if you suffer from this bad guitar practice habit is to pay attention to where your eyes are actually looking while you are practicing. If you are not consciously observing what you are doing while practicing, you are missing out on huge potential to see greater results in your guitar playing.

2. You Get Bored Easily With Slow Guitar Practice

Effective guitar practicing is anything but “boring”. Improving your guitar playing may very well feel challenging and frustrating or engaging and fun, but if your mind is “bored”, it is a clear sign that you are disconnected mentally from the activity you are doing. When your mind is disengaged, your guitar practicing becomes nothing more than mindless repetitions of finger motions (and that certainly DOES become boring). As a result of this, 2 things happen:

1. You do not improve your guitar playing, because your mind is not observing whether or not you are actually practicing guitar correctly.

2. You become distracted because there is nothing for your mind to actively concentrate on relating to playing guitar and you start thinking about other things, letting your guitar practice time go by completely wasted.

The fact is that slow guitar practicing is done NOT for some arbitrary reason, but rather to help you to make sure that your hands are moving the way you want. To see an example of this process in action, watch this video about changing chords on guitar.

In contrast, mindless slow guitar practice does nothing to improve your guitar playing and is therefore a complete waste of time.

3. You Find That You Can Practice Guitar For Hours Without Getting Tired

Contrary to popular belief, long marathon-like guitar practice sessions are rarely a good thing. The reason why is because your ability to stay focused and concentrate goes down dramatically the longer you practice guitar. As a result, your “rate of progress per minute of practicing” gradually become less and less until your practice time actually becomes counterproductive.

No matter what you are practicing (whether it is improvising, guitar technique, rhythm guitar playing, ear training or any other skill) there are ALWAYS many things you should be focusing on to make sure that you are practicing correctly, preventing bad habits from forming or making your guitar playing more expressive and creative. If your mind is actively involved in the process of practicing, you will find that you cannot keep up the required level of concentration for an extended period of time.

The point here goes beyond the obvious need to take regular breaks while practicing. The idea is that you must actually practice with so much focus and intense concentration that you will naturally feel the need to take breaks for your mind to recover. If you find yourself being able to practice guitar continuously for hours at a time, chances are high that you are not concentrating on what you are doing with the required level of intensity. Remember at all times that you only improve your guitar playing during the practice time when your mind is completely engaged, and every guitar practice minute spent with an empty mind is not helping you to become a better musician.

4. You Can’t Tell At The End Of A Guitar Practice Session If You Made Any Progress

In most areas of your guitar playing, you should feel at least ‘some’ degree of progress at the end of every day of practicing. In order for this to happen, your mind must actually set some benchmark for you to reach AND your mind must pay attention to observe if you are moving towards that goal while practicing guitar each day. Even though you won’t necessarily become a ‘vastly’ better guitarist every time you practice guitar, you can and should feel assured that each practice session is moving you forward to your longer term guitar playing goals.

Similar to a bodybuilder who knows when he successfully trained a particular muscle group by observing how the muscles respond/feel after a day’s workout, you should experience some positive “response” in the areas of guitar playing you are working on. This is true not only when practicing guitar technique but also when working on creative aspects of your musicianship such as improvising and songwriting. With that said, if you finish up a day of practicing guitar and feel absolutely the same as you did when practicing the day before, then it is likely that your mind wasn’t as engaged in the process as it should have been. To hear more about this point, watch this free video about the best way to learn guitar.

5. You Don’t Truly Listen To Your Own Playing

This particular point often occurs in one of two different scenarios:

Scenario A. Some guitar players simply don’t know ‘what’ to listen for in their guitar playing (this is especially true of self-taught musicians). As a result, they do the best they can to play the music they are practicing “approximately” right and don’t always know why their guitar playing doesn't quite sound like the playing of their favorite musicians.

Scenario B. Other guitarists DO know what to listen for in their guitar playing (especially if they learned from a guitar teacher who taught them specifically ‘what’ things to pay attention to while practicing guitar), but they cannot bring their mind to focus enough to pay attention to them.

In both scenarios above, guitar players continue their mindless practicing, hoping that their guitar playing will improve simply as a result of them “spending time with the guitar”. However, unless your mind is focused on listening (and paying attention) to a certain set of elements as you practice guitar, your time is being wasted to a large degree.

The specifics of what to listen for will vary depending on what you are practicing (and why you are practicing it) and can include things as basic as making sure that you are playing the right notes, to more advanced nuances of timing, phrasing, picking hand articulation, cleanliness of your guitar playing and more. You must decide for yourself what it is you are supposed to listen for while practicing, or get someone to help you if you can’t figure this out on your own.

As you can see, there are many ways in which mindless practicing can dramatically hurt your progress on guitar. However, the good news is that even small changes in the way you use your mind when practicing can lead to BIG improvements in your musical skills.

The next time you practice guitar, notice if any of the observations described in this article are true for you and take action to correct them if needed. When you do this, you will greatly increase the results you get from every minute you spend practicing guitar.

Make sure to check out these additional free guitar practice resources to get more help with your guitar playing:

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