It’s important to realize that taking music lessons isn’t like going for a haircut, or hiring a plumber, etc., where you just pay for the service and the job is done. A teacher can provide guidance, but it is the student’s responsibility to make use of the information given in lessons. If the weekly lesson is the only time you play your guitar, it will take you a long time to progress.
Many students are so enthusiastic about guitar that they naturally play regularly, always trying to do better and to learn new skills. I never have to mention ‘practice’ to these students, but one could say that they practice a lot. For others, or for parents of kids who enjoy playing but could use a few gentle nudges to keep focused, here are some thoughts and tips:
Perseverance is Key
The amount of time spent and quality of focus during practice are the most important factors determining how long it takes to improve. Some people do seem to have more natural ability than others, but fortunately, persevering with regular, focused practice always works, no matter what your age or apparent natural ability. Sometimes a ‘slow learner’ is revealed to be a ‘more thorough learner’ in the end.
How Much to Practice
Beginners should aim to practice at least 4-5 days per week for 15-20 minutes each day. This means 15-20 minutes spent focusing on trying things that are difficult, observing where things aren’t going right, and trying to correct them. I will recommend specific things to work on, so there should never be an excuse of “I don’t know what to practice.”
Find a Quiet Place and Put Away Electronic Devices
Practicing for 20 minutes a day isn’t going to help much if during that time, you are glancing at the TV, returning text messages, talking to someone, or distracted by others’ activities in the same room. Make sure that the time you are counting as ‘practice’ is the time you spend actually playing and focusing on trying to do things better.
Spread It Out
Don’t cram all your weekly practice into one day. Spread it out over the week and try get some time in most days. 10 minutes a day for 6 days is better than an hour all on one day.
Schedule a Regular Time
Many find it helpful to make practice time a regular part of their schedules. Find a spot to fit it in among your other activities and do it at the same time each day, for example every day after you get home from school or work, or every night after dinner, or right before bed, etc.
Find a Friend
If you know someone else who is learning guitar, get together to play and talk about what you’re working on. It’s a lot more fun and you can learn a lot from each other.
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