time management or lack thereof for practice

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by JMO, Oct 2, 2008.

  1. JMO

    JMO Member

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    SIAP, but i was curious about people's advice or perspective on guitar practice. I"m new to this forum, but so far all advice i've gotten has been great. I am curious to hear how people manage to balance their guitar practice with their personal lives. I'm sure I'm not the only person on here who has to work at least 8 hours a day, so I'm would like to know what y'all do to make sure that you get guitar in, and not just noodling around, but effective practice/playing. I try to play everyday, but it seems that lately I have the best intentions for practicing but after a little while, the energy is not there. I have recently decided to rededicate myself to playing, but it is beginning to seem like working out more than enjoyment. Basically, i feel that i'm learning a bit here and there, but the wealth of information is overwhelming. How do y'all deal with things?
     
  2. spacelord

    spacelord Member

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    A little practice is always better than no practice. If you only have 15 minutes.. go play.
    I try and split my practice about 50/50 between scales/warmups/theory and learning and playing songs. There was a while when I was spending too much time learning scales and theory.. and that got stale day after day.

    Some days.. usually Fridays or Weekends for me.. you need to just jam some tunes..spend a few minutes with some warmups then play your songs for how ever long you like or are able.
     
  3. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    Optimally I get in 2 hours per session. It looks like this for me.

    30 min of exercises/strengthening, stretching, technique stuff
    30 min - hour of new material
    30 min - hour of alternating between structured improv practice (not just noodling, but working on specific things), and rep practice.

    These things get trimmed some if my time gets crunched, but I typically follow this formula. I also take breaks every 20 minutes or so. Helps my focus to do so.
     
  4. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    Get a group of players to play with at least once a week. It helps keep the motivation up and helps focusing your practice efforts (i.e., you can always start on the thing that you noticed wasn't going so well in your last playing session)
     
  5. drfrankencopter

    drfrankencopter Member

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    In addition to the above, I'd add:
    1) Find out what time of day you are most receptive to learning new things and practicing (for me its the morning)...try to find a way to practice then.
    2) If possible, leave a guitar at work. 20 min of practice at the right time of the day can be worth more than a few hours later on when you're tired.
    3) Remember that it is possible to practice without a guitar in your hand. Print out and laminate a photo of the fretboard of your #1, and use dry-erase markers to work out new chord voicings/review scale fingerings, etc.
    4) Read the thread about practicing truisms....

    Cheers

    Kris
     
  6. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    best advice I can give (it's long, but it relates at the end, I promise):

    Don't think of guitar as a "chore" or something you have to "make time" for.

    Don't think of practicing as "work." Don't practice something that you're not genuinely curious about/interested in/passionate about-- that maybe means you're not ready for it yet.

    Cultivate a curiosity about and a love for the instrument. Make practicing a diversion. If you feel yourself starting to get stressed or overwhelmed by just how much there is to learn, put the instrument down for awhile. Weeks, even!

    Don't think of yourself as "having to practice to maintain" some "level" you've achieved. Don't picture your ability as something that will "slip away" if you don't practice.

    In other words, do what you can to remove any anxiety, stress, obligation, or tension-- however subtle-- connected to playing.

    Allow yourself to consider the possibility of never playing the guitar again. Learn to become OK with that idea. Also learn to become comfortable with the idea of playing guitar, but not being very good at it. If you are comfortable with both of the above scenarios, then you are ready. If you are uncomfortable with both, in a genuine way, it means you are either a) putting too much importance on guitar or asking it to partially define who you are, which isn't fair to it, or b) you are wanting to "take" something else from the guitar... in other words, "being good" is important to you.

    Any of that will be destructive to your relationship with the instrument, IMO. Consider the relationship many adults have to television, or the one many children have to video games. Believe it or not, most peoples' relationships to these things are very healthy, productive relationships with somewhat unhealthy, unproductive activities.

    A child can absorb himself in a video game for hours. It requires concentration, focus, coordination, long hours, attention, etc... all the same things guitar requires. The difference? Attitude. A child is not asking the video game to be a part of his identity. He's not relying on it to give him self-worth. He hasn't read a bunch of articles about "how to be a better video game player" and felt like he has to play catch-up. He hasn't been inculcated to believe that video gaming is some esoteric, quasi-magical thing that you have to be "gifted" in order to do. He knows it's challenging and engaging, but doesn't know it's supposed to be "hard." He just wants to finish the game, or to get a little bit farther than he did yesterday. He is driven. He is motivated. Outside observers would call it "dedication," but it doesn't feel like that to him... he's just really into it and the hours just slip by...

    So what happens? That kid comes home from high school. He does his homework. He might have a part-time job to go to. He needs time to go hang out with his friends. He has a lot on his plate... and do you know what? Somehow he still has time to devote to the video games. He still gets far, improves, finishes the game. He finds hours to devote to it. He doesn't have to make a schedule or to try.

    There are a lot of hours in a day. Most people spend a lot of them watching TV, laying around, whatever.

    If your relationship with your guitar is like that high schooler's relationship to his xbox, then you will similarly make hours for it. You will be motivated not out of some quasi-religious sense of fear and duty, but rather out of a genuine passion and curiosity.

    Then the "hours in a day" thing will take care of itself, I promise.

    Good luck!!!
     
  7. Hootad Binky

    Hootad Binky Member

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    get headphones

    play during every commercial break
     
  8. JMO

    JMO Member

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    Thanks to everyone. I appreciate the perspectives. I dont mean for it to sound like I think guitar is a chore, quite the opposite. The reason I even mentioned this is because, like brad347 said, I considered how I would feel if i a)quit playing or b) continued at my then-current level, which had planed off for the last few years. I have recently started taking theory lessons, which is useful and important, albeit very tedious and boring at times. I guess I just need to try and see the big picture and take stock of where I am as a player and where I want to go. Guitar is fun as hell, I just tend to make it a competition with myself and get frustrated and overwhelmed when I don't move along as quickly as I'd like. Really just kinda bitching I guess. Thanks again to everybody.
     
  9. ddewees

    ddewees Supporting Member

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    JMO, this has always been an area where I try to improve. When I have been in cover bands the focus was pretty clear - work on songs from the set list. Now that I don't have that frame of reference I tend to bounce from learning a song to using various dvds or instruction books.

    Regardless if you are in a band or not and regardless of your level this article by Shane Theriot can help you structure your forecast.

    http://www.guitar9.com/columnist83.html

    The 20 minute rule is amazingly effective if you keep coming back to the same piece every practice session.

    2 books, Inner Game of Music by Barry Green and Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner take this to a very deep level. Dan Crary and Pete Huttlinger discuss practicing on their respective dvds as well
     
  10. Jon

    Jon Member

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    Work out how much time you can realistically practice each day and then, if you have email at work and home, divide your time into specific areas with a set time for each and email it to yourself at home - if there are areas which are less exciting but which you know will yield results that you want then include those but also balance them by having an area that you love e.g. jamming.

    If you are too tired when you get home then try to allow for some 'power nap' time before practice - e.g. if you normally only have 9.30-10.30pm to practice, try to get some sleep between 9.30 and 10.00 and then practice from 10.00-11.00. Makes a big difference to me.
     
  11. dverna

    dverna Member

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    Awesome post. Thank you for that.
     
  12. j_uc

    j_uc Member

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    My situation with a busy job is similar and what I try is make it so that every practice session is quality time. That involves learning /practicing the right things - "fundamentals" - and doing them right, even if I only have 20 mn. I want satisfaction from those 20 mn. The second it starts becoming a chore, I stop playing. So on a bad day I will play a mere 20 mn - a bad day for the guitar means I'm too tired or I don't feel like playing - but 20 mn is always manageable.

    For instance, in my case, it seemed very important to learn the fretboard well so I got the Barrett Tagliarino book. I also asked myself for instance, what is the best way to pick, or is what I am doing with my left hand efficient, and looked for answers. For music practice I selected a couple of tunes which I liked enough so working with them (for technique, analysis etc.) for a few months would not be a problem. I set aside other books / material which I will tackle when ready. In the meantime, my focus is to get the fundamentals right betting on the fact that it will accelerate my learning a great deal later on. So in a sense having little time can be an advantage, at least in my case, it forced me to think about how to best use of my limited time.
     
  13. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    When I do find time to practice I make sure I work on at least one song. If I only had 10 min to practice out of the entire day, I work on the song. The soloing stuff is not as important to me.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2008
  14. spacelord

    spacelord Member

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    On those evenings when I am just too "busy" being lazy.. if I just get the guitar in my hands for a few minutes I am good to go until I usually force myself to stop or go to bed.

    Another thing for inspiration, I also like having a huge box of guitar magazines, some back to '87.. I pull that out.. and start looking through them, and in no time I have a small stack of stuff I want to try playing, or at least learn a few cool riffs.
     
  15. Shiny McShine

    Shiny McShine Member

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    I've actually taken some big strides lately. I think it's because I'm able to pick up my guitar 5-6 times a day for about a 15-20 minutes. I've heard that from my vocal coach who recommended singing for 5 minutes every hour during the day. He said it would give better results than one long sustained effort.
     
  16. JamminJeff

    JamminJeff Member

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    Compartmentalize. Never give up. Set goals. Don't over reach. Let your playing evolve. Set aside creative jamming and have fun in contrast/balance to disciplined practice sessions. Go see live music.

    Okay, I know those all sound like platitudes but being a musician is anything but easy, especially over time, dealing with work, domestic stuff, etc. It may seem like the last thing you have time or enegy for but it's also the one thing that will keep you from imploding. Yeah, seriously.

    Look at your 7 day schedule. What time slots are most open ? Set those times aside, in advance and have a general goal in mind but be flexible. (There is no bad guitar playing session). If other people are in your life, ask them for their input AND support. If you only get negative, non-supporting feedback, you might want to re-think the whole thing. The wrong people in a musicians life is bad mojo, now or later. Curse 'em all !

    Turn off the TV. Play the acoustic in the morning with a cup of coffee. Start lessons - they will force you to sit down with the goal of preparing for the next lesson and to get your value's worth too. Expensive things they are. DVD's ? Books, etc. TAB suck. Jam Tracks are okay. Looper Pedals might work for you for lead work. Just ideas.

    NOTE: Some "gear" is motivational.

    Treat yourself to a blasting jam session AFTER a few days worth of focused discipline. It's a game but it keeps things alive.

    Play with other people, away from the home if you live with others.

    Sometimes a few days away from the guitar will breed such an intense desire to play that what comes out of it is increadible. Hit a wall. Pause. Wail !

    Longevity is the secret in the face of constant adversity and we are, our own worst enemy.

    A cup of strong coffee works wonders too !:dude
     
  17. shane88

    shane88 Member

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    at home i always have a guitar handy and pick it up a dozen or more times a day
    i play along to the tv or radio or even surfing the net
    usually every time i plug a guitar in i record something - usually a riff or idea i came up with
    i end up playing a lot but don't allocate time to it and it's too random for me to call it practice
     
  18. fbcpraise

    fbcpraise Member

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    I should be... but instead I'm reading some excellent advice from all you guys!

    JMO, I would add this: in the immortal words of the Wizard of OZ "Everybody has a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity." You know, there are tons of awesome guitar players out there, it amazes me how many. They're incredible, and no one knows their names. Turn on the radio and a guy is playing a solo on some random song... he's really pretty good, but no one can tell you who he is; he's just one more picker. So I can practice my rear off and still have trouble impressing my nephew... a kid he knows at school plays it better.

    Play the instrument because you love it. Practice should make you smile. You'll wear yourself out trying to reach some level that makes you feel legitimate. And remember, the people in your life are more important.
     
  19. joel

    joel Member

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    Same boat....
    I spent a lot of my 15 minute sessions trying to learn scales, chords, technical stuff. A teacher I took a few lessons from said to learn some movable rythm patterns & play along with music. If you're busy, you're tired & need some fun & relax time. Way more fun and satisfying to listen to a favorite CD & play along a bit then practicing scales. I had a hard time getting fluent enough to do that, and a slowdowner like Tascam Guitar-Trainer helped open the door a bit.
     
  20. The Captain

    The Captain Supporting Member

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    I like this post. I usually practice and play for a few hours each night, but sometimes I choose to sit with my wife instead.
    I'm never going to be good enough to impress anybody too much, but I'm more than jiggy with that.
    My tip ..........I don't watch TV. That alone gives me something like 4 hrs a day over the "average" person. OK, I admit I watch a few Star Trek and Bufy re-runs on cable with my wife, usually over dinner, but ap[art from that, no actual TV. Don't even have a free-to-air TV connected.
    Apart from that, I warm up with some exercises that are really pieces of music with really useful elements. Sometimes I practice some scales etc, but not a lot. Then I work on whatever is grabbing my interest that night.
    Last night I introduced a new thing, worked out a simple melody, Jingle Bells, after the Edge thread, and played it in a few different positions. I think I'll make that a habit
     

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