Web Guitar Tutor
Every person has their own reasons why they want to play music, and their own motivation to get results.  Some folks find their muse at an early age and pursue the very pinnacles of musical proficiency.  Other people grab momentary joy from a good old fashioned jam session, or a solitary sing-along.  some people come late in age to the instrument, and strive to make up for lost time.  Whatever your situation is, you have your goals and your available time.  The art of practicing is to use what time you have as efficiently as possible to develop your skill to play the music you enjoy most.  Good practice is fundamentally composed of 3 simple things-- time, focus and material.

Time flies like an arrow, and a guitar student needs firstly to understand how much time they will dedicate to practice.  There is no right or wrong amount of time-- some people can put in an 8 hour day and still feel as if they should have done more, whereas another person can log a solid 20 minutes every day and get pleasing results.  But you have to figure out what your goal is in terms of time, and strive to meet that goal consistently.  Practicing guitar is like exercise-- Major results are not immediate.  You make small developments with every passing moment.  You need to practice consistently to get results.  

Practice time has to be focused on specific exercises, drills or songs.  Absent-minded practice is wasted time.  Focus means, you choose a skill you want to develop, and single-mindedly practice that skill for a given duration.  

Material is the actual stuff you practice. You need to pull many things together to achieve basic musicianship.  There are a gazillion different specific materials you can focus on, each of which demand some investigation and which will yield tangible results.  Consider your left hand--  Slurs, hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends, slides, arpeggios.  Or your right hand-- alternate picking, sweep picking, finger picking, rhythmic practice, palm muting, pinch harmonics.  There materials that are purely in your brain-- sight reading, memorizing chord charts and melodies, studying music theory.  There's just a gazillion different things you can practice, whether you have 20 minutes or 2 hours.  You need to know which materials to practice at any given time.

Formulate some good strategies to help preserve these 3 crucial elements of productive practice.  Here's a few strategies I have come across.

Match your mood with the material
If you are bored of sight-reading, then work on something else that is more appealing  If you are super excited on a new sweep picking exercise, then keep at it, and put off other things for the moment.  When you have drilled something sufficiently, move on to some other material.  Whatever your mood, there is always some material to practice.  And regardless what your mood is, you are still need to practice.  Every day, you need to practice for some amount of time.  But, you are going to carefully select something that is most likely to inspire you to remain focused as you practice it.  Joy is in the journey, not just the destination-- strive to enjoy your practice time.

Keep a Log
Write down what material you practiced, for how long you practiced it, and the date.  Its a simple but powerful habit that keeps you focused on consistent progress.  

Make a Session Plan
Each practice session can be divided and conquered.  Let's say you decide you want to practice for 40 minutes every day.  You can divide each session into 3 parts-- For example, one person might do 20 minutes scales, 20 minutes on mastering a tune, 20 minutes on reading music.  

Sing what you play
This helps crank up your focus, especially for guitarists.  Sing the actual notes you play.  Guitarists commonly learn to rely on finger patterns and become negligent of the sounds they produce.  This adds a new dynamic to finger-centric woodshedding.  It is also good vocal practice, for those of you who want to sing and play simultaneously.

Find a teacher
This is a time honored tradition for all endeavors, from music to sports to Jedi training:  A good teacher will guide you to the right materials and inspire you to practice.  A good teacher keeps you challenged and motivated at the same time.  These days, you can find teachers at local schools, music stores, via craigslist, or even in the comfort of your own home via Skype.  You're welcome to try lessons with me!

Get Sweet Gear
Gear is important, to get the sound that your style demands.  And, the toy factor is a powerful motivator. It is easy to get lost in gear, though, so be aware of your practice to dollar ratio.  

Listening to music is of paramount importance.  Try an online streaming service for unlimited listening opportunity-- Rhapsody, Mog, Pandora, Last.Fm, etc.

Playing with other people helps in many ways.  It forces two hugely important skills-- rhythm, and awareness of where you are in a tune. 

Music is a wonderous thing-- it is both intimately personal and publicly shared at the same time.  You can choose the music you want to play.  But, musical development happens the same for all people-- through practice.  I believe all people benefit from studiously accounting for the three fundamentals of productive practice-- time, focus and material.


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