How To Practice Guitar With Limited Time And STILL Make Great Progress

by Mike Philippov

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We all have days (or weeks) when our guitar practice time is a lot less than we would like it to be. But does this mean that you should simply ‘accept’ slower musical progress on those days? The answer is: absolutely NOT! There are many things you can do to maintain a VERY high level of effectiveness and efficiency in your practicing, no matter how much time you have to practice on a given day.

Here are 5 things you need to do to ensure that your progress on guitar never stops, regardless of your available practice time.

1. Focus on the “big 8”

One of the biggest mistakes guitarists make relating to practicing (regardless of how much time they have) is spreading themselves too thin, focusing on hundreds of unrelated exercises, lessons, resources and materials. The internet (as great as it is) makes this problem a whole lot worse - since you are bombarded with new things to practice on a regular basis. In reality, there are only 8 core areas of guitar playing you should be focusing on at any given time, which are: Guitar technique, music theory, ear training, phrasing, fretboard visualization, chords and scales vocabulary, rhythm guitar playing and creative application. Watch the video below where I explain more about what these things are and give you specific advice on how to practice each one:

2. Focus on maximizing ‘results per minute’ of practice

The amount of time you practice is almost completely meaningless…the only thing that has meaning is how much ‘progress’ you are able to make per each minute of practicing. Two guitar players can practice the same things for equal amounts of time and yet get vastly different results if one person’s ‘results coefficient’ is much bigger than another’s. What does this mean for you? It means that before you work on increasing your total amount of practice time, you must refine your ability to get maximum results from whatever time you DO have. You will take care of this partly on a ‘macro level’, by narrowing your focus to only the 8 core areas of practicing described above. On a micro level, this concept refers to achieving total clarity over WHAT specific skill each exercise is helping you to improve or refine and focusing like a laser only on THAT objective. For instance, if you practice to improve your picking hand efficiency with scales, identify exactly ‘what’ aspect of your picking hand motion is inefficient (such as the follow through after each note as an example) and focus intently on training just ‘that’ part of the motion to become perfect as you practice. There are a whole lot more examples of this idea that are beyond the scope of this article, but simply becoming aware of this general principle will go a long way towards making your practicing more effective.

3. Use each exercise to improve more than one skill

In addition to narrowing your focus to the 8 fundamental areas of musicianship I described above, you should also ‘rotate’ between the things you focus on as you practice each exercise. In other words, rather than having 1 exercise to practice your technique, 1 exercise to practice your fretboard visualization, 1 exercise to practice your ear training and 1 exercise to practice creative application, you can take care of ALL of these areas with just ONE exercise. You do this simply by alternating what your mind focuses on while practicing. Here is an example:

Take a new scale that you intend to practice for 20 minutes. Instead of using that full 20 minutes to only focus on ‘one’ element of your playing of that scale (such as technique, for example), practice it like this:

For 5 minutes, focus on improving your guitar technique with that scale (such as described above in the previous section about maximizing ‘results per minute’)

For the next 5 minutes, focus on extending the scale into every area of the fretboard, so that you are able to fluently use the scale while soloing. Watch this video about practicing guitar scales to learn how to do this.

For the next 5 minutes, focus on ‘singing’ the scale to improve your ear’s ability to hear melodies using that scale and memorize its sound.

For the last 5 minutes, focus on coming up with creative sequencing patterns using the scale that you can play in your guitar solos. Learn how to do this in this course about mastering scales on guitar.

Focusing on ALL 4 areas above in the same 20 minute block of time will make you a much better overall guitarist than you would become if you only focused on ‘one’ element of your playing with the same exercise. This increased efficiency also helps you to maximize your results per minute coefficient as described above.

4. Set micro goals for each guitar practice session

Don't simply practice for the sake of practicing (at random). Instead, visualize each practice session as a ‘step’ towards the much larger goals you have for your guitar playing. With this picture in your mind, each practice session should move you a little bit closer to where you want to be. To help you do this, every time you sit down to practice guitar, ask yourself: “what SPECIFICALLY do I intend to accomplish or improve by the time I'm done practicing today?” This is a completely different approach from mindlessly practicing an ‘X’ number of exercises ‘Y’ number of times at tempo ‘Z’. The former method focuses on strategically moving towards a big picture goal and challenges you to maximize the effectiveness of each minute of practicing you have. The latter approach leads to a dead end and lots of frustration as you simply go through the motions with your brain on autopilot. Holding yourself accountable for specific results in your practicing is key to faster progress.

5. Practice anyway

Even when your guitar practice time is VERY limited, you should ‘practice anyway’. Don’t let any amount of practice time go to waste, no matter how small. Even 10-15 minutes of practicing guitar is better than ‘no’ practice (and EVERYONE has at least 15 minutes during the day to practice). More importantly, if you follow the advice I’ve given you in the other points in this article, you will get a whole lot more accomplished in less time than it used to take you otherwise.

Now that you understand how to get more from your limited guitar practice time, do the following:

1. Watch this video to learn even more effective ways of practicing guitar with limited time.

2. Analyze your current approaches to practicing guitar, looking for opportunities to improve your efficiency and effectiveness.

3. Start implementing the advice from this article and the resources I referred you to into your daily guitar practice sessions and watch your progress soar!

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