If you are an adult just beginning to learn guitar, you may have difficulty finding time to practice. Putting in enough time is a big challenge for anyone taking up guitar at any age, but as you get older I think it becomes even more of a challenge. I didn’t start learning guitar until I was 39 and I had to find ways to fit learning to play in with all of the other things I have going on in my life. I think that most people who take up guitar as an adult find that there are many things that demand their attention; thinks like a career, a marriage, home ownership and children all make demands on your time and make it hard to find time to for practicing.
If you don’t practice regularly and consistently, it is very difficult to make any forward progress. When you aren’t making progress it is very easy to become frustrated which may cause you to spend even less time or give up playing guitar altogether. In order to prevent that from happening to you, here are some tips and advice to help you make the most of your practice time.
Get a teacher. This is one of the most important things you can do when you are starting out on guitar. You will progress much quicker with a teacher guiding you than trying to figure things out on your own from books, videos or the internet especially when first starting out. After taking lessons for a while you will be able to use self-study materials more effectively. Another advantage to going to a teacher is that having someone monitor your progress helps motivate you to practice so that you aren’t going to lessons unprepared.
Set aside a space just for practice and keep it organized. It could be a whole room or just a part of a room, but it should be a place where there aren’t a lot of other distractions€”so you won’t use up all your practice time surfing the net. It should be comfortable and well lit with all your lesson materials readily available so that you aren’t wasting your practice time trying to find things. You will learn to associate being in that space with practicing, other members of your household will also know that this is your practice space and hopefully that they shouldn’t disturb you.
Set aside a regular time to practice. If you don’t allocate time ahead of time and just hope that you’ll have a spare hour here or a half hour there, you will find that those spare moments never surface. If you set aside the time in advance it is more likely you will be able to stick to it. Also if you practice at pretty much the same time every day, it will become habit, and also others will get used leaving you alone during that time.
Use your time wisely. Plan how you will spend your practice time so that you cover everything you intend to cover. Some things, like sight reading, you will want to practice a little every day. Other things might be alternate days, and other things might be once a week. If you plan it out ahead of time, you will make sure you are covering everything you need to as often as you need to.
Be sure you stick with the plan for each session. If you plan to spend 15 minutes of an hour practice session working on sight reading, then stop after 15 minutes. It’s really easy to get caught up in one thing and then before you know it you’ve spent your whole practice time working on just one thing and you don’t have time for anything else. If you find that the proportion of time you’ve allocated to different tasks needs adjustment, then make adjustments to your plan for future sessions, but it is important that you stick to the plan you’ve made for the current session.
Don’t overdo it. Don’t spend so much time practicing that you neglect other things that need your attention. If you are putting other things off to practice, eventually you will have to put off practicing, to deal with the backlog. You will get much more return on your time investment if you practice regularly and consistently. You will get much more benefit practicing on hour a day, five days a week, then practicing five hours on one day and then not practicing at all the rest of the week. Of course if you do find that you have extra free time, that doesn’t take away from anything else, then that’s a bonus.
Make sure that some of your practice time is devoted to playing just for the joy of playing. Learning guitar shouldn’t be all work and no play. If you aren’t getting pleasure out of learning guitar, it is very easy to get burned out and discouraged. When you play for the enjoyment of yourself and others is when you will realize the benefit from all the hard work you put in.
The last thing I want to mention is that you can use of idle time when you are away from you guitar to practice mentally. There are a lot of creative things you can do while you are waiting for the bus, or standing in line at the supermarket, that will benefit your playing. An example might be to visualize the fret board, choose a random fret and name the notes on each string. You can probably come up with other ways to practice mentally. I could write an article on the various things you can do to practice mentally, which is exactly what I plan to do.
These are some things that I’ve found help me make more effective use of my limited practice time; I hope you’ve found them helpful. If you have, let me know in a comment. If you have any thoughts of your own about this subject that you would like to share with other readers of this site, also leave a comment using the form at the bottom of this page.