6 Crippling Mistakes Guitar Players Make When Creating Guitar Practice Schedules

by Mike Philippov


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When most guitar players think about how to get more results from their guitar practice time, they usually focus on the following 2 things:

  1. What exercises they practice during their guitar practice sessions.
  2. What specific ‘practice approaches’ they use to practice the exercises in point 1.

Although the above 2 points are clearly important, there is another critically important element that is often forgotten about. This element is HOW you organize your time to create the actual guitar practice schedule that will be used as a blueprint for your guitar practice sessions. Your guitar practice schedules are like the “glue” that holds all the other pieces of your practicing together. Many guitar players take this step of the process for granted and do not even realize how they are holding back their own musical growth by doing so. In this article I will share with you 6 of the most common mistakes guitar players make when creating guitar practice schedules and how you can avoid them:

Mistake #1: Creating Guitar Practice Schedules Only For One Day At A Time
Regardless of how much time you have to practice guitar, you cannot fit ‘all’ the skills you need to work on into a single guitar practice session (because there are simply too many items to practice in a single day). If you create guitar practice schedules one day at a time, it becomes easy to lose track of what skills you practiced on what day and neglect including important pieces of your musical development into your guitar practice sessions on other days. As a result, some of your skills will fall behind other musical abilities with such a “tunnel vision” approach to practicing guitar. To solve this, create a set of guitar practice schedules for 5-7 days in advance where you can be sure that all the musical skills you need to practice are covered and nothing is left out.

Mistake #2: Creating Individual Guitar Practice Sessions That Are Disconnected From Each Other
Although creating guitar practice schedules for several days at a time (as described above) greatly reduces the chance of making this specific mistake (Mistake #2), it is still possible to create guitar practice schedules for several days in advance full of random practice materials, with no connection to what was practiced the day before or will be practiced the day after. Another common symptom of this problem occurs when your guitar practice sessions are filled with items that are there for no reason other than “because that’s what you felt like doing at the time”.

Guitar players who create practice schedules in this way often feel like they are spinning in circles - going through the motions of practicing but not getting anywhere as their guitar practice sessions lack clear direction.

In contrast, all great guitar players approach their practicing in a way where every guitar practice session is a small step towards reaching a larger musical goal. The items in their practice schedules primarily revolve around the big picture of skills they need to develop.

Note that this does NOT mean that every guitar practice session must always focus on the ‘same’ things, it only means that when you look at several weeks’ worth of practice sessions by a great guitar player it will be easy to see the bigger picture of a larger goal (or a set of goals) that is being achieved.

To learn more about how to organize your guitar practice sessions in the same way as great guitar players do, watch this free video on learning to play guitar.

Mistake #3: Practicing The Same Guitar Technique Exercises For Too Many Practice Sessions In A Row
Not only is it boring to practice the same exercise on guitar for weeks at a time but doing so is also very ineffective. The reason why is because each exercise in and of itself has a limited musical application. In other words, an individual exercise only trains your guitar playing skills in a “single” context of playing that specific finger pattern (and perhaps a few closely related phrases) but doesn't help you in significant ways beyond that. So if you have a handful of guitar practice exercises that you work on over and over every week, you are subjecting yourself to extreme boredom for no added benefit!

A much more effective (and fun) way to approach creating your guitar practice sessions is to have a 'variety' of different exercises that all help you to improve in a specific area of guitar playing. For example, if you are trying to improve the fretting hand finger rolling technique for sweep picking, you can have 15-20 different arpeggio exercises that all focus on this particular element of technique in a variety of guitar playing contexts. You can then freely alternate between them each week, improve your guitar playing in a variety of musical contexts and have more fun in your guitar practice sessions!

Mistake #4: Creating Guitar Practice Schedules That Lack Flexibility
One of the characteristics of an effective guitar practice schedule is that it must be easy to follow and complete. However, if you always organize your guitar practice sessions by trying to complete a certain amount of “time” (for example, always trying to practice guitar for 1 hour per day or 2 hours per day), then in many cases the realities of life may prevent you from completing your planned amount of practice time. This will only lead to frustration and an increased tendency to skip an entire day of practicing when you feel like you cannot fit in an X amount of time on a certain day.

A much better alternative is to put together a list of practice items you want to work on throughout the week first and allocate a % of total practice time to each area. For example, instead of planning to spend 10 minutes on arpeggios, 20 minutes on music theory and 30 minutes on improvising (for a total of 60 minutes) on a particular day of the week, plan to spend 17% of your practice time on arpeggios, 33% of your time on music theory and 50% on improvising. This will make it much easier to ensure that EVERY item in your guitar practice schedule will be covered on a particular day, regardless of whether you have 3 hours to practice guitar or only 30 minutes. This is particularly effective to do if your daily guitar practice time fluctuates wildly due to a busy job schedule or other commitments and it will allow you to make consistent progress in any situation.

Mistake #5: Practicing Mostly Items That Are Fun Or That You Are Already Good At
It is natural to only want to practice things that you enjoy or that you are already good at playing on guitar. This is a common symptom of misunderstanding the difference between “playing” guitar and “practicing” guitar. Remember that when you ‘play’ guitar, you make music on the instrument in the best way you know how (through improvising, playing songs of others or writing your own music). However the purpose of ‘practicing’ guitar is to improve the weak areas that hold you back from having more fun while playing. Another way to think of your guitar practice sessions is to see them as periods of time allocated to solving guitar playing problems. You can see an example of what it means to practice in this way in this guitar practice techniques video.

When you practice guitar, it is quite normal if your practice sessions are full of mistakes and sloppy playing. The reason is because these are the skills that you need to improve so that you can perform them cleanly and fluently in your actual guitar ‘playing’ once they are mastered. This means that if something is consistently easy for you to play, it does not belong in your guitar practice schedule!

That begin said, you should of course set aside specific time for having fun and enjoying the act of playing music freely. However, if you want your ability to enjoy yourself playing guitar to continuously increase, there needs to be adequate time allocated to “practicing” guitar and improving your weak areas.

Mistake #6: Making Guitar Practice Schedules That Are Much Too Strict
Although it is important to focus on your weaker musical skills in your guitar practice sessions, it is equally important to know how to make the process of practicing guitar more enjoyable and fun. A practice schedule that is not motivating you to practice guitar is counterproductive.

Even if you are among the rare group of people who have a lot of inner self-discipline and are willing to withstand excruciatingly boring guitar practice sessions for months at a time, you must realize that a super strict guitar practice schedule does NOT, in and of itself, deliver more effective results. I have given you one such example of this above, where some guitarists may practice a particular guitar technique exercise for weeks at a time trying to get it absolutely perfect, despite the inevitable boredom (and reduced effectiveness) that sets in after a week of practicing in this way.

In addition to varying the exercises themselves, you can schedule some part of your guitar practice sessions to be spent on learning something that you particularly want to play (such as a song or a solo) that may or may not specifically relate to your long term goals. This way you give yourself something else to look forward to in the short/medium term to allow yourself to have fun in the process of becoming a better guitar player.

Armed with the information from this article, what you should do now is analyze your approach to organizing your own guitar practice schedules. If you find that any of the mistakes listed above apply to you, you must become EXCITED instead of feeling upset or frustrated. The reason to be happy is because any time you discover a mistake you’ve been making in your guitar practicing, it can only mean one thing: you now have the ability to correct it and become an even BETTER guitar player than ever before! Practicing guitar is a never ending journey and the more you can refine the process, the faster you will see the results you want and the more fun you will have along the way!

To get even more insight on the best way to create a guitar practice schedule, make sure to study the guitar practice techniques video as well as the lesson on how to learn to play guitar.

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