Summer is always an interesting time of the year as the weather gets nice and family and personal activities, trips and events kind of pop-up. Frankly, it is hard to sometimes keep up with the guitar in the warm months unless you are a working professional. So, I am here to just bring that up and give you heads up that things will compete for your guitar time just about now.
I remember when I was younger, I’d literally lock myself in the basement and I’d play and play. While all of my friends where on the Jersey Boardwalk, I’d be practicing on my B.C. Rich Platinum Warlock. I remember clearly when a couple of my friends showed up at my house and wanted me to go to the park and I told them no because I was deep into learning Ozzy’s Killer Of Giants song. This happened quiete often. One of the great things about this approach back then is that when the school started again, I would seriously have a leg up on many guys who were better than me on the guitar.
I had 6 musical notebooks filled with scales and licks and I would go through everything in each one. That was good enough for back then.
I still have them.
When players ask me how I practice these days I say that it depends what I’m trying to do. So, in short, I do not have a set practice schedule.
When I am working on lessons for students, I plan them out and work out the examples that I want to show. When I have to do a clinic somewhere, I work on the live material (relearning music) and I work on what I will cover.
In othe older days, I’d set out 30 minutes for exercises (like playing my technique building licks for 3 minutes each), working on chords, scales for another 30. I would then work on songs that I knew and I’d spend another half hour trying to come up with riffs. I’d put a cassette recorder by my amp and tape what I came up with. I’d finish each session with another 30 minutes of exercises. Back then, I practiced constantly. I’d keep a planner and I’d write down how many hours I played each day,
One thing I do today is when I feel that my playing is feeling little off is that I sit down and work on different scales. Playing them 3 notes per string, in thirds, fifths, etc. I feel then like my whole playing gets glued together. This sounds very simple, but it works. I kind of got this little regiment out of an interview I watched with Billy Sheehan, who is one of my favorite bass players.
For practicing, if you have a hard time getting a full hour in, break up your sessions into 15-20 minute jams. Do a couple of them per day. This approach works well.
On the weekends, it is a lot of fun to wake up early, brew some coffee (strong in my case) and just play before anyone wakes up.
And, sometimes you have to bribe yourself. If you hit 5 hours of practice per week (just an example), you can get something, be it a CD, a tuner, etc. Us humans, we respond to this.
Lastly, and most importantly, in order to keep wanting to do anything, we must keep fueling the fire. Just like an old school locomotive, we must keep that furnace going with coal. For us, it is spending time here, listening to great music or reading about music. When we move away from something and stop fueling it, very often the interest dims. And, we lose focus.
Loosing focus is the #1 killer of why people fail at accomplishing something they set out to do.