Setting goals for 2018

The post below is an excerpt from an email I sent Six String subscribers earlier this year. If you’re not signed up yet, you can do that for free in the sidebar. 

Most people set goals well into the New Year. Why not start setting goals now, and be ready to take on the year? Here’s an example of one of my practice routines. I've said it time and time again, but knowing what you're going to do when you sit down to practice will make you a better guitar player, faster. I hope it finds you well. Here's to an awesome 2018!


One thing I always try and make time for is practicing guitar.

In fact, that's what this whole email is going to be about. While my practice routine changes from time to time depending on the different things I'd like to focus on, it always sticks to the sections of time system.

I'll spend 15 mins on something here, maybe 30 mins on something else, but never stay on the same thing for too long. I also like to try and stack practice habits together. If I'm working on sweep picking, but also want to learn a certain bunch of arpeggios, I'll try and link the two together.

Here's a breakdown of my January practice schedule:

Downward pickslanting (15 minutes)

I've mentioned Troy Grady and his Cracking the Code series a couple of times in the past. Not many things have made such an impact on my playing as studying his research into picking techniques.

I'm working on downward pickslanting a lot this year. You can check out his courses on Gumroad. He also has a ton of content on YouTube so you can get an idea of what his method is all about.

Sight reading (20 minutes) 

Sight reading has always been important to me, and I have a number of books I'm using to keep my sight reading fresh. Sight reading is one of those things that I've found diminishes if you're not practicing it regularly.

Here are 2 books I've been using lately for sight reading:

Transcribing (20 minutes) 

I think transcribing is just as important as sight reading, if not more important. It helps you develop a great ear, and will help you out if you're playing with a band in a live situation.

I've been changing it up and transcribing an instrument that isn't guitar. Here's the book I've been using. Take it in small chunks, and you can get it done!

Improv (25 minutes)

Around this time in my practice routine I'll want to forget about some of the more standard practicing I've done and just play for fun to see what I come up with.

I'll put on a number of backing tracks and mix it up with soloing off the cuff and incorporating techniques, scales or other things I've learned while practicing. This helps cement what you're learning in a real context - playing music.

Using Drone notes (15 minutes)

I love the sound of using drone notes in music. You'll find examples of drone playing in Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin, Big Wreck and lots of other artists' songs.

Tim Pierce is a fantastic guitar player, and I recently found a great drone / common tones lesson from him on YouTube. I'll usually use this 15 minutes to learn a new technique. In the past this section has been taken up by sweep picking. I'm putting that on hold for a little while to learn how to get more drone notes into my playing.

Mixolydian mode (15 minutes) 

Modes are a mystery to a lot of guitar players. At the end of the day, they can be a helpful tool in providing your playing with different feels while you're soloing. Try and work on a mode a week until you have all of them under your fingers for one key. Start with the key of C since it has no sharps or flats.

After that, move on to applying the modes to other keys. Which is your favorite? If you like the sound of a certain guitar player, search the internet for what modes they use most, and make those the first modes you'd like to tackle.

This entire practice schedule clocks in at under 2 hours. If I don't have a full 2 hours to practice (which is often), I'll try and take the sections I didn't work on the previous day and start with them the next time I sit down to practice.

What do you like to practice when you sit down? Set goals for yourself so you're not just mindlessly playing, but also include time to just have fun and play. I've found that the more I learn, the better those times I'm 'just playing' become.

Happy picking!

-Brian Sutich