I’ve been teaching guitar for almost 10 years. Over this period of time I’ve taught hundreds, maybe even thousands of students. Different walks of life, different skills, but the same goal – to improve as guitar players.
‘If you want to instantly improve … start examining how you practice and thinking about how to practice guitar more effectively.’
A cool thing about teaching so many aspiring guitarists is that you get to understand them better. Over time you recognize patterns in their behaviour and you can even predict who’s going to be successful.
There is a special group of students who you know have the greatest chances to ‘make it’ as guitar players. And these guitar students have one thing in common: the understanding that they are responsible for their own progress.
There is a saying, ‘Nobody cares about your money more than you do‘, and you can say the same thing about guitar playing.
Students who experience the greatest progress are the ones who understood that they are the ones who can make things happen.
Sure, I am trying as a teacher to help everybody as much as I can, but the most important work needs to be done in the practice room.
‘Students who … have the greatest chances to “make it” as guitar players … have one thing in common: the understanding that they are responsible for their own progress.
Out of 168 hours in any given week, usually just one of those hours is spent with a guitar teacher. The majority of time we spend with our guitar is alone in the practice room.
So if you want to take charge of your guitar playing, you need to start focusing on what you do during those hours when you are all by yourself.
That’s where your progress is hidden.
Who’s Your Guitar Teacher?
I’ve been playing guitar for a long time, so I know how hard it is sometimes to persuade yourself to get serious about your practice time.
I’ve spent countless hours figuring out how to become the best guitar player I can be.
My first attempts to become good at guitar were very childish, even silly. But over time, I’ve learned quite a bit from my mistakes.
I’ve realized that if I really want to see some serious progress in my playing, I need to become very good at teaching myself guitar.
‘Most of the time, you are your own guitar teacher. … When you are by yourself, it’s all up to you.’
And that’s the idea I would like to make you aware of. Most of the time, you are your own guitar teacher.
It doesn’t matter if you are taking guitar lessons from the best teacher in your area, when you are by yourself it’s all up to you.
Your teacher might create a practice plan for you, but you are the one who needs to stick with it.
Your teacher might give you focus points, but you need to make sure that you are actually paying attention to what you are doing.
Your teacher might warn you about certain mistakes in your technique, but when you are alone, you need to check if everything is as it should be.
What I am trying to say is that you are only as good as your practice habits. If you want to instantly improve the quality of your practice time and therefore the quality of your playing, start examining how you practice and thinking about how to practice guitar more effectively.
‘You are only as good as your practice habits.’
Observe what you do and how you do it.
Don’t be too hard on yourself; just observe so you can start to understand your behaviour. Pay attention to the following:
How often do you lose focus?
How fast do you switch from practicing to mindless playing?
How many distractions are there when you are practicing?
How clear are you about goals for each practice session?
How do you measure your progress?
How often do you get honest feedback about your playing?
These kinds of questions might give you deeper insights about your guitar practice routine. You might start to see which areas need some improvement and what’s working okay.
Determine How to Practice Guitar More Effectively
Here’s an example of how you could act on your observations:
If you find your mind wandering all the time, you might come up with a few solutions for how to fix it.
Instead of pushing yourself constantly, try using a stopwatch to focus intensely for a short period of time and then take a short break and repeat.
Instead of doing mindless repetitions of the same lick, focus on playing only a few repetitions but without making any mistakes.
Instead of practicing late at night when you are tired, try practicing in the morning and see if you still lose focus.
The idea here is to start improving any area of your practice time that is currently not working properly. But you don’t want drastic changes. Rather, you want small, incremental changes that over time will produce much better results.
Since you are your own guitar teacher, you need to start developing solutions to your musical problems. The more you try to improve, the more you will.
‘You need to start developing solutions to your musical problems. The more you try to improve, the more you will.’
And of course, you can use your regular guitar lessons as a booster for your progress. Take notes of problem areas that you can’t solve by yourself and ask your guitar teacher to help you with them. This way you are working as a team towards the same goal.
Remember, you can improve your practice time immensely if you stop being satisfied with your sloppy habits and start improving them one by one.
Tiny, almost invisible changes can have a huge impact on your playing over time.
About the Author
Lukas Kyska is guitar player and teacher, as well as the founder of The Aspiring Guitarist blog, where he helps guitar players improve their practice habits so they can accomplish more in less time and with greater ease.