In anything you do, there is an expense of resources in hopes of gaining a reward. In learning to master the guitar the resource expended is time and the reward gained is improved ability. It sounds like simple math, so why is it so much harder to convert the resource into the reward when it comes to playing guitar? Why doesn’t time spent holding the instrument equate to ability to play the instrument like a master? The answer lies somewhere between what resource of time you spend versus what resource of time you invest.

Spending time with your guitar can take many shapes. You can spend time tuning, wiping the dust from between the strings and bridge, smudging fingerprints from the finish. You can spend time sitting with your guitar in your lap, staring at music that is too difficult for your present skillset, wishing you could just play it. You can spend time with your guitar strapped around your neck, sitting in on the rehearsals of your friend’s band, not playing much at all.

Investing time with your guitar is harder to do. You can invest time in your playing by planning practices ahead of time, structuring the practice sessions, setting goals and working toward them incrementally in synch with your abilities at the time. You can invest time in your guitar by tuning, cleaning, and caring for the instrument before you begin practicing. You can invest in your future success as a musician by finding a good teacher, following instructions carefully, and slowly and steadily progressing through graded material.

To maximize your return on investment (ROI), try these tips:

  • Have a plan in place before you practice. Know what your skill level is and what your goal for the material you practice is.
  • Slower practice results in quicker learning. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the more carefully you work on a piece of music or technique, the sooner you will see results.
  • Instead of practicing for long stretches of time, try practicing for shorter time spans but more often. Three 10-minute practices throughout the day will net better results than one 30-minute session.
  • Rest is an important part of practicing. Rather than becoming exhausted working on a technique or particular section of music that just won’t come, put it away for the night and sleep on it. Very often the material will seem almost magically easier the next day. The science behind this will be discussed in future posts, but is fascinating and a real asset to your ROI of time.
  • Remember to isolate problem spots and utilize repetition until the issue is smoothed over. The smaller the isolated issue, the easier it will be to rectify. The key is to identify problem spots early and be relentless in your repetition until you are satisfied.

There are other ways you can invest rather than spend time practicing. Be critical of your routine, and seek ways to trim and hone your practice sessions to the core of what is most important right now. You can work on other problems only once the immediate problems are solved. Now go GuitPickin’!

J.M.D.

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