Action Steps Toward Making Your Practicing More Entertaining and Efficient
By Chris Glyde
This article is an extension of an article I wrote entitled “ Why Your Practicing Is Boring.” This article will provide you with some additional action steps towards improving your practicing skills. If you hope to be able to cure your boredom and make your practicing more fun and efficient, read this whole article to the end!
The Root Problems
1) No specific practice goals.
Monthly goals and yearly goals are great, but daily goals will be even more effective toward improving your skills and making progress with your playing. You want to make sure that when you sit down practice the guitar, there is one thing in particular that you are working on achieving at any given time. Many beginners have very general and basic initial goals. “I want to learn this song or this lick,” they might say. This is not very motivating. A better goal would be, “I’m going to work on keeping my fingers closer to the fretboard, within the context of open chords.” That’s a fantastic and very clear goal that your mind can focus on and grasp while playing. Many times, people wander or get bored because there is no real focus to their practice. The idea of mindlessly learning songs or licks is unfocused and unproductive.
Action Step: The next time you sit down to practice, I want you to have a piece of paper on hand. Write down what you’re focusing on, specifically and in detail, during each moment of your playing. So when you’re practicing chords, what’s the goal?
2) You have negative thoughts while practicing.
Many people, when practicing, allow negative beliefs about themselves and their abilities to take over. While they sit there practicing, they think about all the reasons they can’t do this. It’s been said time and time again, but here’s a great Joan Of Arc quote: “Battles are first won or lost in the mind.”
If you’re constantly thinking about all the work that you will need to do while you’re practicing, about how
this will take forever to master, how you don’t have the skills to do this, that you’re not smart enough, that you don’t have the natural ability, or how practice is really boring—or any other thoughts like this—you’re going to have a hard time reaching your goals. You will feel unmotivated to practice, and it simply won’t be worth it to you when you try.
Action Step: The reason you’re feeling unmotivated is because you are unconsciously un-motivating yourself. Many people aren’t even aware of all of the thoughts going through their heads. When you sit down to practice next time, I want you to be conscious of the thoughts in your head. When you’re feeling unmotivated, try to realize that it’s your thoughts that are causing these feelings, and try to consciously turn the situation around. You can do this by thinking positive thoughts about yourself.
“Practicing is fun and exciting! I always get one step closer to my goals when I practice! There is nothing I’d rather be doing!” And so on.
3) You aren’t practicing, you are “playing guitar.”
Many people spend years simply learning songs, licks, and jamming to backing tracks. This is not practicing guitar; this is playing guitar. When you do this, there are no goals or real purposes to learning a song, other than simply to play it. You may be inadvertently working on some skills that you need to work on, but for most people, this is not the focus. Playing guitar and playing actual music is more than a physical act; it’s more than reading dots marked down on a piece of paper. There are many more skills necessary to play the guitar, or any other instrument, exactly the way you want to.
Action Step: The next time you sit down to practice, try working on something that isn’t actually a song. If you’re not sure how to do this, I would recommend making a list of skills that you believe would be necessary in order to achieve your goals, and then map out all of the steps in between that you need to accomplish. When you’ve figured out the steps involved, go and do the research in order to find the information you’re seeking. Many people just go through the motions, and nothing they do is even worth the time.
All three of these action steps will take time to master. You may think that you have no time to perform these action steps. “I only have 30 minutes to practice, so I can’t do this”—I assume that’s the thought that went straight into your head. If not, then great! But if you did have this thought, or something similar, then the next few sentences in this article will be critical for you.
You need to take these action steps. They are not optional. If you were getting ready to fire a gun, would you aim first, or would you just close your eyes and hope to hit the target? You aim first, of course, and these action steps are an act of mentally aiming in terms of playing and mastering the guitar. When you don’t take these steps, you are simply wasting your time, and you will not reach your goals.
—————About the Author————
Chris Glyde is a guitar teacher based in Rochester, New York. He has been teaching Guitar Lessons in Rochester for years, and has helped hundreds of guitar players reach their playing goals.