Q&A: How Much Should I Practice?
"If you are not approaching it and relating to it all from the right place, it may not matter how much time you put in. "
I just received your book “The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar” a few days ago and have read it all and am anxious to start practicing. What is the ideal time to spend practicing each day? Andrew
I always tell students that they can become players with 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week (and I consider this the bare minimum). If you practice the right things in the right way, you will get results. You can begin to acquire proficiency on a technical level and be able to strum and sing, and even lay the groundwork for further growth.
Get Clear On What & How To Practice
As far as the material in "The Principles" is concerned, It is very important to understand, Andrew, that your first job is to put out the effort required to gain a firm grasp of what The Principles are about, so you know HOW and WHAT to really practice when you sit down to practice.
Before we concern ourselves with how much time we put in, we really want to be clear about what we need to do when we sit down to practice. If you are not approaching it and relating to it all from the right place, it may not matter how much time you put in. If you practice from a place of great intensity, great Attention and Intention, great awareness and great thought, then, you can get some amazing results even with a few minutes a day on various exercises.
Of course, anyone who wants to play at higher levels of development must put in the hours it requires. If someone tells me they want to be professional, they better be doing a bare minimum of 3 hours a day, or I’ll start laughing! With all there is to learn about music, not to mention how to play the darn guitar, well, all I know is I have never regretted the years of 10+ hours a day studying music and the guitar, just doing whatever I felt was necessary to get what I needed to get.
Just Do It
When you are approaching the study of something new, just “wade into it” with full attention and a fully open mind. Just start immersing yourself in it, just start doing it, and be there with honest attention and good feeling and let it develop. You’ve read the book, good, that gives you an overview of what it is about.
Obviously, you saw that the book is divided into 3 aspects, Understandings, Tools, and Foundation Exercises. Now, even just the first few Understandings and Tools often completely change players, we hear it all the time.
So, make sure you are really allowing those Understandings to make a difference in your experience when you sit down to practice and play. Make sure you really USE those tools. Begin to do the Exercises that are consistent with your goals. If you play pick style, pay greatest attention to the exercises for the pick,and do the Right Hand String Shifting Exercise with a pick, working the tempo up as suggested.
Then, begin to study the left hand exercises. It may take a while to discover the sensations they are designed to bring to you. It may take you weeks to be able to do proper no tempo practice on the walking exercises. When you feel secure, work them up also with the Basic Practice Approach.
The most important thing is not really WHAT you work on. It is deciding on a course of action, writing it down weekly, and then re-assessing and revising the course of action that is most important. It is understanding the PROCESS of developing as a guitarist that is important. And of course, DOING that process.
The path becomes clear as you take each step. Many people wait for the path to appear before they will take that first step. Of course, they never get anywhere.
Get The Fundamentals, Choose A Style
Once you feel like you know what you are doing, I believe you need very little time in actually doing the Foundation Exercises. In fact, you will begin to see the essence of those exercises is contained within the movements necessary to play the music you are learning, and you will use the skill learned in the exercises as you practice that music.
When I am personally instructing someone, and insuring that the quality of the practice is what it should be, then the student only needs say, a few minutes of no tempo practice on an exercise, followed by maybe 5 or 10 minutes of a “workup” to the appropriate “speed limit” that has been gained thus far. Then, on to the next exercise, or something else, maybe even some real music!
Obviously, if you are interested in fingerstyle, focus on all the fingerstyle exercises, and combine those with the left hand exercises, and work up the walking exercises that way. You must really pour yourself into “The Principles” in an intense way in order to get what is in there. And when you do, you will really know it!
Knowing how to organize your practice is an ongoing skill we develop. The best thing you can do is consult with other players, or your teacher if you have one. Find people who are getting results and copy their approach, or adapt it to your needs. Also, read my essay “Practice Organization.
Develop the Right Approach For You
If you have a schedule that allows a lot of free time, or if you are serious about being a musician, you should be using a good amount of time learning MUSIC as well as guitar. Try to learn theory, try to learn how to read music. Just learn lots of stuff, stuff you like!
If you don’t want to actually learn to read music, then don’t, but do something else instead! Make it something that really turns you on, that you love, and just do it. Maybe it is sitting and mastering blues and playing blues all day. But whatever it is, have it be something that is working toward goals you have decided you want to achieve.
Most of all, do NOT be a person who only thinks and talks about being a guitarist, and gets a temporary “rush” when they tell their friends about how they are going to be a great guitar player some day. Be the kind of person who DOES it, and lets everybody else discover on their own, as time goes by, what a great guitarist you have become.