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Learning Guitar with Limited Time



Work, kids, spouse, not much time for anything else. As we get older, our personal hobbies get set aside for the more important things in life. Yet, in our hearts, we all yearn to get back to that creative kid that lives in us all.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You start up lessons and block out personal time in your schedule to focus on your guitar. The first week you do great, devoting 20 minutes a day every day. Your instructor couldn’t be more pleased with your progress. The following week, you miss a day. You think, No big deal, life happens. I’ll just get back on track. Yet, life kicks in and it seems that the quality practice you promised to yourself just doesn’t happen.

You now have two choices:

  • Give up your dreams of playing guitar for awhile
  • Approach practice in a way that allows you to still maintain a household/job

Which option did your mind settle on? I hope you chose the 2nd option because that indicates your willingness to try something new! I can’t make any promises, but here is an approach that my older students use to get the most out of their limited time. For the moment, let’s assume you are working on major scales. Instead of blocking out 10 minutes of practice time a day, think about how many times you would need to play the scale to start making progress. Your best, realistic guess is that it would require at least 10 repetitions, 4 days a week. Once this is determined, on practice days, pick up your guitar randomly, several times throughout each of those days and run though the scale once or twice each time. These brief and focused practice sessions can prevent the frustration of anticipating interruptions because you know that you will be slipping your guitar studies in throughout the day when it’s convenient for you. This strategy will also guarantee that you will have picked up your guitar anywhere between 20-40 times by the end of the week.

Random, brief, and focused practice works well for me because I have a tendency to slip into jamming mode instead of improving my skills the longer I sit with my guitar. This is common with guitarists who have been playing for a while. Using this approach and developing it into a habit, I now can review my studies as well as get some jam time in, so long as I hit my 10 practice repetitions of an exercise for the day. Obviously, you will need to tweak this for your situation, but I have found one thing that makes this type of practice easier: Keep your guitar out and within reach so you’re able to capture the moments when the inspiration to practice hits.

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