If you are struggling to motivate yourself to practice guitar or you find you aren’t improving (two things that usually go hand-in-hand) then try some or all of the following guitar practicing techniques to ensure successful practice sessions.
There are techniques you can use and habits that can form that will make your guitar practice sessions enjoyable and productive.
The following I have found to be very useful for my own guitar practice and hopefully can do the same for yours.
Tip #1: Improve at Every Session
I’ll get onto how to achieve this one later in the post. But for now let’s assume you know how to make sure you improve in each and every guitar practice session that you do.
Would you be motivated to practice if you knew you would get better every time you practiced?
You should. And if you don’t by the abstract idea of improving in the future – you will become more motivated naturally simply by the improvements you’ve made in past sessions (if you can just motivate yourself to get through the initial sessions where you will be improving).
Still with me?
By improving in every session, you will subconsciously and consciously enjoy your sessions a lot more – just make sure that you are aware of your improvements.
That gets me onto the next suggestion.
Tip #1.1: Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is huge for motivation. This goes hand-in-hand with improving in every single session.
You need to know that you are making those improvements.
To track your progress you could keep a journal of your goals and when you achieved them.
It’s a good idea to write down what you are going to practice before your session anyway – so you can extend that into a journal that notes your goals, the date you set them and the date you achieved them.
I haven’t used it for myself yet (but plan to try it out soon) but you might want to check out the link below if you are looking for a way to track your practice sessions.
Or Record Yourself
Another great way to record your progress is to actually record yourself playing. Recording yourself playing is a great way to improve as well. But it can also act as a motivator.
Record yourself now or when you are next practicing your guitar. It doesn’t have to be a high tech studio recording! Just do something quick on your smart phone or other device. Most people will have a device these days that can do a simple recording.
Once you’ve done your recording:
- Note the date of the recording.
- Set some goals
- Set a time limit for those goals
- Re-record yourself at a pre-determined date (for example you might set a date of 6 weeks to re-record)
- Play the same things in your second recording that you did in your first recording and compare them.
If you can see how much you are actually improving it will motivate you to continue to practice.
Note: Don’t re-record yourself for at least a good few weeks. If you re-record yourself after only a week or two you may not notice much difference and it could have the opposite effect.
Some online guitar lesson providers, like Guitar Tricks, will provide progress tracking on their websites and good in-person guitar instructors should also provide this. But you’ve got to make sure that you actually do it.
If you aren’t already being encouraged to do it – take the bull by the horns and start doing it – it will make a big difference down the road.
As Pearson’s law states – “What Gets Measured Get’s Improved” – or something along those lines.
O.k. so now you know (if you didn’t already) how continuously improving is a great motivator and how you need to know that you are improving to get that motivation. But how do you make sure you improve every time you play.
Tip #2: Have a Guitar Practice Plan
That’s right by having a guitar practice plan.
If you have a good plan for each and every one of your practice sessions and include achieving (or working towards achieving) specific goals as part of that practice session then you’ll be well on the way to making sure you improve.
Just make sure your goals follow the SMART goals ideology.
SMART Goals for Better Guitar Practice
A goal that says “I want to get better at guitar at some point in the future” isn’t really a goal – or at least it’s not a good one. It’s vague and there is no time set to achieve it.
Something like “I want to be able to play the first 20 seconds of the solo for Layla, properly and smoothly, by the end of the month” is much better.
Your goals should be specific like this.
They should also be measurable. You will know when you have learnt the first 20 seconds of the solo in Layla. And if you record yourself you can properly measure whether you have it down properly or not.
You should also choose goals that are within your current skill set. They should be attainable. If you aren’t yet ready to achieve a certain something, don’t make that your goal yet – set a goal that is within your reach. Once you achieve a number of goals you might someday be ready for what once seemed unattainable.
Also ensure your goals are relevant. If you have no interest in learning classical music or ever playing it – then don’t learn Mozart’s Symphony No.25. If you don’t want to play the blues don’t learn it. Make goals that get you to what you actually want to achieve. Also if you have an ultimate goal – then you’ll likely have smaller goals that you’ll need to achieve along the way. In that case, make sure your smaller goals are leading towards your ultimate goal.
Finally – set a time limit for your goals. This is an important step. However, it does not mean that if you haven’t achieved your goal by that time that you should give up or that you failed. It just means that the time you estimated to achieve it was inaccurate. If you have haven’t achieved your goal within the first time limit you set, then set a new date to achieve it by – keep going until you have achieved the goal. Make your time limit realistic though – and then you should achieve it within the first or second time limit set. The important thing is – don’t change the goal, adjust the time.
Tip #3: Tough it Out at First and Set a Habit
O.k. that was long winded! I’ll keep this one short I promise!
If you can get into a habit of practicing guitar it won’t seem like a chore. The habit you might want to get into is to practice every day – or practice Monday to Friday or something like that.
You might need some will power at first to set the habit but once it’s set it will make practicing much easier. Also there are ways to make the habit less difficult to establish, by following the “keep it short and sharp” and “Build Up your Time” sections below.
Tip #4: Keep it Short and Sharp
Especially when you’re first forming a habit of playing every day or 5 days a week or the likes, then you should keep your sessions to no more than 15 minutes. This sounds short but it’s important that your brain wants to practice again and if you go too long it might see the idea of guitar practice as too daunting and do what it can to put you off.
It might be tempting to keep playing and keep playing – especially if you’re feeling it. But you don’t want to play so much in one session that you burn out and don’t want to play again for a week.
You hear all the romanticized notions of playing until your fingers bleed. And o.k. that’s fine – if you can do that every day of the week consistently for a prolonged period of time.
Which, unless your name is Jimi Hendrix, you probably won’t.
It’s far better to practice 30 minutes a day, every day of the week, than it is to play for 3 hours one day and then not play again for a week.
Trust me on this one. And you will be far more likely to put in more time in the long term by breaking your sessions up into smaller chunks.
If you haven’t achieved what you wanted to that day, don’t kill yourself trying to achieve it all right there and then. Pick up where you left off the next day.
The biggest motivation killer is if you dread going into your next session – and if you had an unpleasant previous session then you are going to dread your next one.
Tip #5: Build Up Your Time
If you want to start putting more time into playing the guitar – that’s great! But just make sure you build up slowly.
If you suddenly try to play too much, too often, you’ll burn out and lose all motivation and enjoyment.
- Start out with 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week
- Continue like that for a couple of weeks
- Then up it to 15 minutes a day – continue for a couple of weeks
- Then up it to 20 minutes – continue for a couple of weeks
And so on, until you’ve reached your desired amount of time.
If you go beyond 45 minutes a day, then make sure you split up your sessions with regular breaks.
That’s it for today! Phew, that was a long one.
There are likely countless other things that others use to help to motivate themselves and ensure they are always improving and this is just touching the surface. If you have any other tips for motivation feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Hope this helps with keeping you motivated to practice the guitar – if you incorporate anything from this post let me know how you get on – I’d love to hear how it helped you – just leave a comment in the comments section below.