Obviously the only way to improve your guitar playing ability is to practice. But do not make the mistake (which too many aspiring guitarists do) of believing that any and all practice will lead to progress in terms of your playing technique. Previously in this blog I’ve written about making a written plan which clearly states what specific exercises or material you intend to work on, for how long, and what goals you hope to accomplish during each session. Now I want to expand on this idea by talking about how you should put your practice plans into action. The first step is to make sure you know how to set up for a productive practice session.
A good way to ensure that you are properly set up for solid practice time is to make a list of all the tools that you might need during your practice. DO NOT make a mental list. Write this list down on paper and refer to it before each and every practice session. Here is my list of tools that I work with:
First the obvious stuff…
1.) My Written Practice Plan If you practice without a physical copy of your plan, you are really just fooling around.
2.) My Guitar Second only to the Plan in terms of importance
3.) Guitar Playing Chair An armless, height-adjustable, chair that is suitable for playing guitar. No couch practice. No edge-of-bed practice. No exceptions.
4.) Foot Stool
5.) Music Stand & Sheet Music
Now, the not-so-obvious…
6.) Metronome If you practice without a metronome you are wasting your time.
7.) Electronic Tuner a.k.a. my iPhone Both my tuner and my metronome are free iPhone apps.
8.) Earphones I prefer to listen to my metronome clicks via earphones. That way the clicks can be soft but I still hear them over my guitar.
9.) Nail File So I can make impromptu adjustments to my fingernails without having to stop practice.
10.) NEW Guitar Pics If you play with picks, please, do your self a huge favor and always have NEW picks on hand. Playing with worn out picks will cause you to develop TERRIBLE technique. Don’t do it to yourself. I’m begging you.
11.) Wrist Watch or Clock The Plan is based on doing exercises for 5 minute intervals so we will need to keep an eye on the clock at all times.
12.) Full Length Mirror The mirror is so important for so many reasons (which I plan to get into in a later article), yet this is the one tool most people skip. And it just so happens that most people can’t play guitar very well.
13.) Pen and Blank Paper A lot of good ideas will come to you during practice sessions. You’ll want to write those down.
So you see there are a lot of tools which I keep on-hand and ready-to-go at every practice session. Experience has taught me that it is far better to gather up all the tools BEFORE practice than to keep stopping your practice to go looking for each item as you need it. This kind of start-stop-start-stop practice can literally cost you hours each week and add up to costing you years in your development as a player. It’s so simple. Just respect your own practice time. Take it seriously and you’ll be seeing better results immediately.