The majority of us don't have the time that pro guitar players have to work on our craft. For many of us, 5 hour practice sessions are something we can only dream of -- imagine all the time you could spend learning sweep picking?
With 9-5 jobs, side hustles, family and friends, and a host of other responsibilities it's a surprise we get any time to play at all. With that being said, it's not as difficult as you think to make time to play or practice. Here are a few ways to practice, with and without your guitar.
Getting mindful about practice
We've talked about how to create a practice schedule in the past. Knowing what you're going to work on when you sit down will let you get the most out of your practice sessions. Check out this post for an example of how to create a great practice schedule.
It's good to focus on the techniques, theory and musical concepts that you want to progress on first. Make sure to save a bit of time to use the concepts you're learning in a musical way, over a jam track or by recording yourself. Recording yourself gives you an easy way to determine how far you've come.
Unfortunately there's no way to get extra hours in a day, but being mindful about what we do when we sit down to practice will help save hours of noodling around and not moving forward.
Visualizing, soaking up knowledge, and transcription
What happens if you want to practice guitar, but you don't have a guitar on hand? Whether you're driving in a car, or doing another everyday task, you can still get practice in.
On my everyday commute I enjoy listening to guitar podcasts. There's always new information I hadn't heard about yet, and the more knowledge you have, the better.
You could also listen to music actively (see the tip below), try and transcribe a song or riff you're trying to learn, practice intervals and so much more. One thing I like to do is look at a sheet of music or tab and visualize how I would play it on the fretboard. This becomes even more helpful when you have the music to listen to.
It might sound crazy, but it does work. It's almost like you're preparing yourself for when you do have a guitar in hand, and are ready to play the song. Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you.
Actively listening to music
I recently took a guitar lesson from Dave Weiner. He's an incredible guitar player who plays in Steve Vai's band and also runs his own guitar learning site, Guitopia. I mentioned I was looking to get further along on guitar, and that I respected players like Guthrie Govan. We both were in awe about how many different styles that Guthrie could play flawlessly.
Dave mentioned that Guthrie was a very proficient listener of many styles of music. What does this mean? If Guthrie wanted to learn gypsy jazz, he learned by listening to a lot of gypsy jazz, same thing with Les Paul-esque songs or acoustic ballads . When you sit down and listen to music, are you listening passively or actively?
Next time you're trying to learn a new style of music, find out who your favorite players are, and actively listen to what they're doing. I'm currently doing this more and more with players like Brad Paisley, while I'm trying to get more country riffs under my fingers. What riffs and techniques are common in the genre you're trying to play? Learn the vocabulary of the style you're trying to play, and you'll eventually sound authentic.
Making it easy and making compromises - skip the Netflix!
I remember someone asking Steve Vai how he got so great in an interview. I'm paraphrasing, but he said something to the effect of him bypassing playing video games, and practicing guitar instead. He said if he played video games as much as he played guitar, maybe he'd be great at video games.
There are more things than ever to entice us away from playing guitar -- social media, games, and lots more. If you really want to see progress in your playing, you have to recognize what matters more to you. Catching up on the latest season of Game of Thrones (winter is coming, by the way), or practicing modes?
You don't have to cut out all this extra stuff completely, but you can trade one for another occasionally. Just like being mindful when you sit down to practice, when you choose to do something other than play guitar, really make sure that's the best use of your time. Many times it will be a sit around the house and watch Netflix day. But what if you picked up your guitar that same day and wrote a song instead?
It's also important to make it easy to play. I always have a beater electric or acoustic ready to go on a guitar stand. This way, I don't have the resistance of taking a guitar out of a case and possibly not playing at the time. If you want to run more, put your running shoes and clothes by the door. If you want to get more playing time in, make it physically easier for yourself by setting yourself up for success.
How do you find time to play?
The tips above are only a couple of the many ways that you can get more meaningful time to practice, whether that be with or without a guitar. How do you find time to play? Let me know by reaching out on Twitter or Facebook.