How do we set ourselves up with a practice routine that gets us where we want to go but doesn’t bore us half to death?
I’ve found many things that you can do to make sure you enjoy your time on the guitar. Here are the ones that have helped bring the fun to both my students and my own practice routines.
If you have listened to some of my previous podcasts, you are most likely aware that I recommend splitting your practice sessions into two parts: Play and Practice.
It’s been a really big change in my own practicing. I unconsciously tend to work something to death.
When I have some lick or scale or rhythm or something, I will just play it over and over until I get it. 9 times out of 10, once I get it down, I’m sick of it and move on to something else. Too many of those experiences will lead me to want to do something else instead of practice.
And sometimes, I’ll just love jamming on the guitar. It is so much fun, but I noticed that it is not very effective. I don’t grow as fast as I would like when I’m just noodling on the guitar.
Both of these things are important, and both are part of a well rounded guitar player.
Take whatever time you have and split it in two. One part fun another part serious work.
If you make that the backbone of a daily practice routine, you get the added fuel of repetition and you have all of the ingredients for success on the guitar.
So, when I get stuck on something or am finding it hard to stay excited, I’ll start off my practice the other way around. I’ll begin with some fun. I’ll make it a priority.
Instead of doing some exercises, I’ll play along with one of my favorite guitarists for half of my practice sessions. That’s right play along. Not a backing track, playing along with what I want to learn.
It’s so much fun and you can hear right away what you need to work on. But jamming along starts to line something up in your mind. You start to get the vibe of the song.
You start to be influenced by the other players in the band, just like the guitarist you are trying to learn from. The keyboard player may play something that causes you to react differently that you normally would. And that is growth as a player.
So, doing something that you can look forward to first can put you in the right mindset for success. You may then be feeling great and ready to tackle the more challenging parts of practice.
From teaching group lessons, I got into a habit. When you have a room full of guitarists playing and everyone is playing with distorted tones it’s very difficult to hear what is exactly going on and teach.
So, in classes we all practiced with a clean guitar tone.
When I play out, I’m always riding my volume knob between clean and distorted.
I set my lead sound with my amps and pedals and lower my volume to clean. That way, I can have a ton of different tones between clean and saturated, just by changing my level on the guitar.
I found in my practicing, I was very uninspired. It just wasn’t fun playing clean guitar all of the time.
I was missing some inspiring tones. And, honestly, I play differently depending on the tone that I’m using. My technique changes and my choice of notes changes.
I wasn’t practicing all of the things that I would actually play when I would play in a band setting.
So I set up a way to practice that was very similar to my main tone. Even though I practice mainly direct through a modeling board, I started using my pedalboard into it. These are the same pedals that I use when I play out.
The amp I chose in my modeler is the closest to my gig amps. And it worked. I was getting a great tone direct that directly relates to my live tone without having to set up all of my amps. And if I come up with some new settings while practicing, I know that they will work in my live setup as well.
Practicing instantly became more fun. It was still quiet enough that I wasn’t disturbing anyone, but I was getting my tone. Sometimes I would find myself sneaking away to practice because I had a tone idea and wanted to try it out.
Practicing with the tone that you would use in a live situation can really up the fun factor when playing things that might not be so inspiring.
Back on episode 38, I went through my ideas of setting up a fun and effective practice space. A big part of that episode was setting up the atmosphere of your room.
I can’t tell you just how important this is. You may not think it’s important and yes you can practice pretty much anywhere, but setting up my practice area has had instant results.
If you feel good about your surroundings, you are already ahead of the game. You are going into your practice with bonus points before you even begin.
It’s similar to setting up your man cave or woman cave (she shed) 🙂. Your surroundings have a big impact on the way you feel.
If you are in a fun environment, chances are that you’ll have more fun practicing. Take a listen back to episode 38 sometime. It’s so important to have a space of your own to really start moving forward on the guitar, and if you can make it a fun place to be, you are already one step ahead of the game!
Make your practice laser focused on the things that bring you the most joy.
What is the one thing about playing guitar that floats your boat? What is that thing that puts a smile on your face, when you are just thinking about being able to play it someday. It could be a song, or a certain technique, a certain riff.
When you play guitar, getting sidetracked is a big problem. There are lots of shiny things that can distract you. And we are exposed to these things all of the time: “I want to do this, and this, and this, and this.”
Take some time to think back to what got you into this in the first place. What are the things that really appealed to you about the guitar. So much that you went out and bought one to play.
That is the thing that you need to be practicing. Sometimes, I’ll be working hard on a song for a gig, or for someone else, and It is not the thing that I enjoy doing.
Or sometimes, I’ll be working on a scale or technique that I think I should know, and I’m not enjoying myself. I’ve taken a wrong turn and forgotten what brings me joy about the guitar in the first place.
Go back to what you love and if you aren’t’ able to play that yet, set some goals. Research the skills that you need to be able to make this happen and get to work. Most people don’t mind the hard work if their ultimate goal is straight ahead.
Who says you have to practice alone? Not me. Finding someone to practice with can be a lot of fun. The trick is finding the right person.
If you are confused or challenged when you practice sometimes having a shared experience can be super beneficial.
I know that when I offered in person group lessons you could see the progress speeding up. Whether it was through questions that one student had that helped everyone else or being able to see someone else practicing the same thing, it became fun.
If you are fortunate enough to know someone who is at the same level of guitar as you, why not give it a try. Try to set up a practice date and see how it goes.
Even if you cant make it work, it’s still a great idea and very fun to share your experience with someone who is going through the same thing you are.
Even if you can’t find someone on your own level on the guitar, if you know someone who is farther along, it would be really worth your while to be able to get together to play or practice with them.
That’s the big secret with music in general… players generally rise to the occasion. When you are in a situation where you are at the disadvantage, you are in a constant state of learning. Big breakthroughs and quicker learning processes can come from this.
You might think, “What is fun about that?” It sounds very uncomfortable, and it is at first. But once you can hang with the Big Boys, there isn’t anything much more fun than that.
If you can conquer those kind of fears, the fun turns into thinking about what the next impossible goal you can set.
Say you are new… brand new to the guitar. It’s all overwhelming to you. You aren’t sure what it is you are doing. You are playing a few things on the guitar and nothing sounds like the songs that you would love to play.
Why is this and how can you make it fun?
You are most likely struggling. Your fingers hurt. You are filled with doubt that you may not be able to play this thing.
You may have learned a few chords and are struggling to move from chord to chord. This is tough and not as much fun as it looks when your favorite guitarists play.
The first thing to get to having fun is that you need to realize that everyone goes through this. That girl or guy who you see having fun and playing the guitar started off just like you.
This isn’t an overnight thing. But rest assured that you are on the right track. Try to enjoy the process because it never ends.
That player who is having so much fun is most likely practicing something challenging in practice. It’s a journey with so much fun along the way.
Enjoy taking these first steps on your guitar journey. You are practicing things now that you will use for the rest of your musical life.
Take the time to learn them correctly and you will have a lifetime of enjoyment from these skills.
Also, don’t set unrealistic goals. This is going to take time and you are going to need some things to celebrate. Make sure to celebrate each step along the way. If you do, you will have a very positive time with the guitar.
What if you in the other boat? What if you have been at this for a long time. At this point you know that you need to practice to move forward but you may not have had the best experience with practice.
Practice can become a big chore if it is not set up correctly. You don’t have to endlessly punish yourself because you aren’t where you want to be with mindless exercises.
You need to spend the time trying new things.
Change it up! Change everything.
Change your practice location. Use a different guitar and amp. Try a different approach. Experiment.
Maybe for the first week or so, you don’t even touch the guitar. You just spend that time that you would practice to find your new way.
Research what it is you want to do and who it is that is doing it. Send them an email or a direct message on Instagram. Ask them what they think are the essential skills that need to be perfected to accomplish what they already have. Who better to ask.
Or, take the time to find a method that works for you. Try a few different teachers content out and see if you find one that inspires you. If you do, look into it further. See if they have other resources for students.
Whatever you do, make having fun again a priority.
Having fun with the guitar isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes you have to intentionally set your situation up to have a good time.
As you continue your journey with the guitar, you will learn more about yourself and what is fun for you on the guitar. Making these discoveries a priority and working the steps needed to achieve them is the path to having fun and success on the guitar.
Today I brought you some Ideas to bring the fun to your practice. They were:
I hope you got some helpful ideas from this. I’ve been working on my practicing and find keeping these things in mind have made my time with the guitar more enjoyable.
I’ve also found that I want to spend a lot more time practicing when I’m set up for fun.
Here’s my challenge for you. Spend some time this week thinking about how you could bring more fun to your practice routine.
Just pick one thing and try out. See what happens. Then the next week, try another.
If you make this into a habit, before you know it, you just might find the ultimate practice routine that doesn’t feel like practice at all.
Let us know what you come up with in the comments below. What you find may help so many other guitarists start to move forward as well.
Thanks and happy practicing!