Mistake 1 – Not having a plan
You should have a plan for what it is you are practicing. At the start of the week, plan out what it is you want to be focusing on for your different practice sessions each day. Get a notebook or a diary, plan them out and keep it next to your guitar, so that when you pick up your guitar each day, you know what it is you should be working on.
You can take this one step further and also organize the materials that you need to practice (books, sheets, print outs etc), so that when it comes to practicing, you can grab the materials for that day’s practice and get started.
Now that you have your plan, you want to make sure that when you sit down to practice, you know which piece of your plan is going to be implemented and achieved…
Mistake 2 – Not having an objective
Your practice sessions should have a purpose and you need to be clear on that purpose. When you sit down to practice you should know the outcome that you are working towards for that session. Are you working on memorizing a few more bars of the song you are working on? Are you wanting to speed up your chord changes from A to E? Are you wanting to eliminate the string noise you get when practicing sweep picking a certain arpeggio? Be clear on what it is you are working to achieve. Which brings us nicely to the next common mistake…
How are you going to put your strategy together?
Now that we’ve looked at the differences between playing and practicing, let’s take a look at some different elements of putting together a strategy that need to be considered:
Mistake 3 – Not having the right practice materials
Now that you know what it is that you want to work on, you need to know how to work on it. For example, let’s say you want to work on your sweep picking. If you put “sweep picking exercises” into Google, you will get 1000s and 1000s of results. How do you know which one to work on? Not all exercises are made equally! Having the correct exercises for what you want to achieve will help you progress much, much faster.
Mistake 4 – Doing the right exercises… in the wrong order
The order in which you practice things is vital to the rate at which you progress. Having the right materials but practicing them in the wrong order will set you back nearly as much as doing the wrong things in the first place. Order matters!
Mistake 5 – Having the right materials, in the right order, and practicing them the wrong way
The way that you practice is very important to the result that you get. The way a lot of people approach practicing is to play something a few times and then wonder if they are done and what to do next. For example, should you play that chord for 5 minutes then move on to the next exercise… or should you play it for 2 minutes, then play it somewhere else on the neck for 2 minutes, and then spend 1 minute practicing playing that chord and changing to a chord you already know. Or is there another way that would be better? It’s hard to create a general approach here, but try to think about the context of the exercise in your general guitar playing and what will be involved.
How are you going to practice?
Mistake 6 – Not memorizing the exercise that you are working on
Memorise it. Unless you have highly advanced sight reading skills, you will need to memorise the exercise that you are working on. When you are practicing an exercise that you are reading, you are giving your brain an extra process that it has to do in addition to playing the exercise. This takes focus away from what your hands are doing, and can also disrupt playing through the exercise if you have to take your eyes away from your hands, look at the page, look back at your hands, etc. So by memorizing the exercise, you can put your whole focus on playing the exercise.
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