Several years ago (2016), I wrote a post called Practicing with
No Time, part 1. Although I followed up with part 2, I’ve
decided to present a more comprehensive plan, one that draws
on the posts I’ve presented over the years and allows you to
achieve your goals in 20-30 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week.
People are busy! When I first wrote this post I was aiming at
busy adults with jobs, kids,etc. but now even the kids are over
booked! My first instinct is to tell you to stop working so much
(this is why I play music), but this may not be practical for
everyone. For most people the demands of a job, family,
classes,etc. leave them almost no time for a daily practice
routine. That leaves an hour or two on weekends, where it’s
easy to resort to the same old stuff. Although breaking out of
this routine can seem impossible, my years of teaching
stressed out adults have shown me ways to deal with this. It’s
challenging, but not impossible! This post emphasizes the
same 3 points I made in the other one, because the basic
realities haven’t changed. (The next post will outline the
1-START SMALL: I have no magic bullet; you must lower your
expectations, at least for the short term. If you don’t practice
8 hours a day, 6 days a week you will not be making major
changes any time soon! However if you practice 20-30 minutes
a day, 4-5 days a week (plus that hour jam on weekends) you
can make small changes and small changes add up! You could
be several levels higher in a year or two with a focused
routine. Does that sound too long? How many years have you
already wasted fooling around? Life is a journey, you might as
well relax and enjoy it.
2-MAKE A TIME TO PLAY: This is easier if you start small (10
minutes). If it’s important, you can at least come up with 10
most days at a time when you’re still functional and can
negotiate some peace. Try for the same time every day or
schedule it with an event, like around a meal. It doesn’t have
to be every day; 4-5 days a week is plenty (plus that week
MAKE A PLACE TO PLAY: Most people don’t have separate
music studios. Find the quietest corner of the house, maybe
a bedroom. Get a small headphone practice amp and shut
the door. Keep your guitar on a stand if possible. (If you
have small kids you may need to keep it in a locked case
under the bed). Make it as easy as possible to start playing.
You should be able to start or stop in a couple of minutes.
The reason why I’m starting so small and emphasizing such
basic and obvious points has to do less with becoming an
overnight sensation and a lot more with building a habit. The
first few weeks it doesn’t matter so much what you play, only
that you play. That 10 minutes a day of playing at the same
place and time needs to become a habit, like brushing your
teeth. You probably spend 10 minutes a day brushing your
teeth, but it’s no big deal, you just do it because it’s a habit.
Once a behavior becomes a habit it’s much less of a hassle.
The first few weeks are the hardest and you will probably use
every excuse in the book to quit, but keep at it! Set a timer for
10 minutes and you’re done. It will get easier after a few weeks
and after a few months it will just be something you do, like
brushing your teeth. (If you are not brushing your teeth, get
that down first.)
What can you do in only 10 minutes a day, 4-5 times a week?
Not a lot, but something! And if you can increase the time to
20 minutes (or even 30, gasp!), I’ve developed a core
curriculum that can have you playing; hundreds of chords,
scales over half the neck in any key, taking 6 easy riffs and
turning them into 100’s of solos, all in a year (maybe 2) of
20-30 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week. Like I said in the
beginning, if a year or two sounds too long, just contemplate
how long you’ve wasted fooling around! The next post will
lay out the syllabus for this.