Busting The Practice Rut

This article is about something many of you probably
have experienced - a rut. And not any rut under the
sun, but the practice rut. Have you ever picked up the
guitar and thought, "I don't know what to practice!"
or put down the instrument in the beginning of some of
your practice sessions with the "I already know
everything"-attitude? Hmmm... you need help my friend! Read on!

Setting goals

First of all, take a good time to think about what you
want to become. Guitar playing, as well as music
itself, has such a broad horizon of possibilities that
it is impossible to "learn everything". It is better
to decide what kind of music you want to play, how
many music styles are you interested in, how advanced
you want to be at any particular style, etc. You want
to set a long-term goal, a vision of yourself in the
imaginary future. Be careful though - you just cannot
become expert at classical guitar, jazz guitar,
country guitar, blues guitar, rock guitar, (ad
infinitum) even if you have many decades of
(unfortunately) running-away-time at your disposal.
The final goal should be a reasonable thought, not an
"is-it-possible-to-accomplish?" doubt.

What to practice

Once you know your long-term goal, it is time to
create the short-term goals. In essence, it means
that you take a closer look at the previously created
future vision of yourself and really make an effort to
build a pattern of small steps that will lead you
there. Each step on the road is the short-term goal.
Therefore, you must know exactly which steps you must
take to reach the finish line. Think of all possible
aspects of guitar playing and music you must learn to
become the one you want to be. Then, if necessary,
break them down into smaller pieces which you will
practice in order to achieve your long-term goal.
Probably you wont be able to come up with every aspect
of playing at once, but you will, quite sure, discover
these missing steps someday on the practice road.
Then, just add them to your practice routine as new
short-term goals.

Finding study material

You have now reached the point where you know what to
you want to be and, which is even more important, know
what to practice to actually achieve it. The next
logical step is finding the good study material or/and
a great teacher. At this point you are really on your
own, if you not use help from other guitarists, book
reviews in guitar magazines, advertisements, etc. Make
an effort to find a really good study material - it
will shorten your road to the goal achievement
tremendously. (Being little commercial here - you
might check out the demo of my book at
www.nordisc-music.com and see if this
material could be something you are looking for.)

How to study chosen material

It is up to you to decide which techniques you want to
use when learning all desired aspects of guitar
playing and music. If you buy a book, there are
usually some practicing suggestions given for you to
follow. If not, try to make up some logical learning
approach for yourself. (Unfortunately, it is hard to
give any general advice to you regarding study
techniques because many different aspects of music can
be learned in many varoius ways.) If you really do not
know how to organize your practicing schedule you can
always ask a guitar teacher. These people are usually
quite experienced in music and can give you lots of
good advice. This will automatically make your study
more efficient. You could break down the short-term
goals into even smaller study segments and practice
them one by one.

Make it a habit by setting a proper time of the day to

A good general advice i can give you is to let your
practice schedule be a steady part of an ordinary day.
Dedicate a given time period of every day to
practicing. For example, if you have set up a
two-hours practice schedule, you might do it between 4
p.m. and 6 p.m. Some day you might not be able to
practice at the planned moment, but you can always
move it to any other time, or split it in parts and
practice each part at different times of the day.

Practice Schedule

A practice schedule should contain a list of all the
aspects of guitar playing you want to practice along
with the time you want to spend on each aspect. Well,
there is nothing more to it, besides that you should
follow this schedule and modify it as you reach one
short-term goal after another.


You should continously repeat everything you have
learned, simply to not forget it and also to make all
material so familiar to you that you can use it
without struggling and too much unnecessary thinking.
When should you repeat the learned material? A good
rule of thumb is: first after 30 minutes, then the
next day, then after one week, one month and after
that, every sixth month. If you try to use the material you have learned your
brain will classify it as an important task to know,
which means that the forgetting process will slow down
remarkably - if not disappear at all. Therefore: use
the material, think about it as often as you can,
teach it to other players if possible, etc. Make your
brain believe it is important stuff you have learned,
and it will never leave your head!

So, what are you waiting for? Make up a study plan and
go ahead! Good luck!

I hope you found this article interesting and helpful.
I look forward to hearing your comments!

Sebastian Kalamajski, a guitarist from Sweden, began his music studies when he was seven years old by learning how to play piano.

Sebastian is currently studying for M.D. as a biomedical scientist. His new, large (370 pages) digital book is just being published on his web site.

Sebastian Kalamajski