How to structure your practice sessions
“How should I structure my practice sessions?” and “In what order should I practice my exercises?” is a question that a lot of my students have asked me over the years. If you are learning how to play the guitar, I am sure you have asked yourself these same exact questions at least once and this article is here to help you answer them.
- Have a plan
Define in advance what you are going to practice and what percentage of your practice time you are going to dedicate to each practice item. It is more efficient to think in terms of “percentage of your practice time” than in terms of actual minutes, since you might have more or less time to practice depending on the days.
If you are going to practice 30 min, it is best not to have more than 2 or 3 practice items. If you practice 1h, you can go up to 4 to 6 items. If you practice more than 1h, try to stick to 6 items anyway, and spend more time on each item. You will feel greater progress on each item and will avoid feeling you are “spreading yourself thin”.
It is best to have a weekly plan of what you want to accomplish, with 4 to 8 practice items, and then decide what you are going to focus on every day. You do not need to practice every single day all items of your weekly plan.
Set mini-goals for what you want to achieve with each practice item. It will help you stay focused and have a sense of completion at the end of each practice sessions which will make you want to practice more every day.
- Warm up your mind and your hands
When we think of warming up for a practice session, we often think of warming up our hands to get the blood flowing and prevent injuries. However, what we often forget about is to warm up our mind.
The mind is like a muscle: you should warm it up before putting too much strain on it. If you’re new to the guitar or haven’t practiced consistently for a long time, you might need to only play easy things that you enjoy for a few days or weeks, until you have truly “warmed up”.
If you are used to practicing consistently, you must still mentally “enter” your practice session for maximum efficiency. Most of the time when you start practicing, you are still half-thinking about your bank you have to call, your work tasks you haven’t finished, your kid who had a low grade at school etc. If you choose to prepare yourself mentally, you will get much more out of your practice sessions!
- Start with technique, finish with songs and creativity
After you have warmed up, your brain efficiency is at its peak. You are able to focus on things that require a lot of concentration, such as technique or difficult music theory. Set a timer for how long you are going to practice each technique item and until the time is off, try to be as focused as possible. Do not send messages on your phone, do not multitask, just focus on improving your technique little by little. You will find that by reaching high levels of concentration, your technique will improve much faster and you will feel great about yourself.
Once you have reached a few of the “mini-goals” you have set for yourself and have this great feeling of accomplishment, reward yourself by practicing your favorite songs or, if you are into that, practice improvising and songwriting. If you use the techniques you have just been practicing, try to consciously feel how your technique practice has helped you feel freer on the guitar and express yourself better.
All of this will make you addicted to practicing because you will feel so good at the end of each practice session! As a result, you will become a better guitar player in a short amount of time and will enjoy the process 100%!
About the author
Matthieu Delage is the director of the Escuela de Guitarra de Madrid, which is considered as providing some of the best guitar lessons in Madrid. It uses a proven method which has produced significant results for many guitar students.
Matthieu es el director de la Escuela de Guitarra de Madrid, donde se imparten unas de las mejores clases de guitarra en Madrid. Usa un método probado, que ha producido importantes resultados para muchos alumnos.