The 80 – 20 rule tells us that 20% of what we practice is responsible for 80% of the results that we realize. Think about that. That means that 80% of your practice time is leading nowhere. We should find the wasteful 80% and eliminate it from our practice routine. Just do the 20% that gives you results.
So, here are three ways to help you get the most out of your practice time and cut out some of the 80% of fluff.
1. Warm Up
At the risk of sounding like your high school gym teacher, I can’t emphasize this enough. If you plan to practice guitar for more than 10 minutes, warm up first.
I never seem to want to warm up, I guess I’m just impatient. But I find that my fingers just don’t do what they are capable of doing when they are cold.
I encourage you to find a quick and effective warm up routine that works for you. But any good routine should:
- Keep both the left and right hand moving as much as possible
- Include some stretching for your fret hand
- Reinforce fundamental music theory (rhythm, scales, etc)
2. Use a Metronome or A Backing Track
Either works, though I prefer a backing track for the inherent fun. Playing in time is a fundamental skill that is worthy of mention whether you’ve been playing for 20 years or 20 minutes.
It winds your inner timeclock and really what’s a blues musician without the groove?
For a cool way to really lock into your groove, check out this video from Berklee College of Music professor, Michael Williams.
3. Stop Noodling!
I know it’s fun, but don’t do it. Heresy to a guitarists ears, I know. If you really want to see improvement when you practice guitar, mindless ‘noodling’ or ‘jamming’ has got to go.
Instead, have a plan. Your practice plan should be a very targeted approach to learning. Practice guitar with intention. A great practice session includes some time devoted to these key areas:
- Practicing music theory
- Learning or writing new songs or licks
- Working on a guitar technique
Bonus Tip: Don’t play what you already know.
I’m not saying that you can never play your favorite tunes again, but do you really need to devote precious practice time to that song? You know the one. The one you can whip out at any moment and impress your friends. Your go-to song. Do you really need to play that one every time you pick up the guitar?
So there you have it. Four very easy tips that if you put into your practice routine you should begin to see some serious results. It’s time to stop wasting 80% of our practice time.
My biggest waster is noodling. What’s yours?