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How To Practice Guitar Efficiently

By Paul Kleff

As an adult guitar player it can be difficult to find the time to practice guitar. Jobs, family and other activities pull you in many directions. There are days when you may feel you don’t have time to practice guitar at all or just for a few minutes at best. So what is the solution for limited practice time? Learning to practice in a way that will help you get big results in a short amount of time—practice efficiency.

Here are some steps you can take today to greatly increase the efficiency of your guitar practice.

1. Focus on the specifics of the music to be able to play and make that the main part of your practice plan

It’s easy to get off track and play the same old drills and exercises without putting any thought into them. Your brain must be engaged when you practice—you cannot mindlessly run your hands. Your brain is your true musical instrument—your hands are your tools.

Start with the music you want to play. Write down the specific solos and songs that you want to make part of your repertoire. For example, if your goal is to play “Ain’t Talkin Bout Love” by Van Halen, you don’t need to practice acoustic finger picking.

To play the Van Halen song, analyze the parts that are in it and create your practice drills around those parts. For example, in the intro of the song you must be able to pick single notes out of chords (this is called playing arpeggios.) You can create a practice drill that uses those specific chord shapes and picking patterns.

This type of practice has two major benefits: 1. You are learning the necessary parts of a specific song you want to play, and 2. The part you are practicing raises your overall guitar skills. Nothing is ever learned or practiced in a vacuum. As your technique improves in one area, it gets better in other areas as well.

Let the music you want to play dictate what goes into your practice plan.

2. Schedule your practice time

Just like you schedule your other activities—work, sleep, exercise, etc. Make the time and put it in your daily planner. If learning music and playing guitar is important to you, look at how you invest your time. We invest time in the things that we care about and are important to us. Schedule it.

3. Make it easy to practice

Create a dedicated guitar practice space for yourself. Have all you music practice materials there. Keep your guitar on a wall hanger or stand so that it is out and easy for you to access. Ideally, you want to be able to walk into your practice space and be able to get to work immediately without having to get your guitar out of the case, find a pick, find the music you are working on.

Get organized and make it easy to pick up the guitar and get right to work.

4. Make use of small time blocks

Don’t have a half hour to practice? Not a problem—if you are organized you can get a lot of work done in just five to ten minutes. Think about the Van Halen example from above—if you could work the intro part to the song for five minutes, six times in a day, that is a half hour of practice.

This is why having your guitar out and ready to go is important. If you know exactly what you need to work on, it is super easy to practice in very small blocks of time and get a lot of good work in on the guitar in those blocks.

This video will show you ways to make the best use of your practice time:

Remember the key points of efficient guitar practice:

Let the music you want to play dictate what you practice.
Schedule your practice time.
Make it easy to practice.
Make good use of small time blocks to practice guitar.

Paul Kleff teaches Grand Rapids guitar lessons for adults and kids who want to play rock guitar.  You can learn to play the songs and solos of your favorite guitar players and bands.