Do you find yourself spending time on things that aren’t necessarily what will make you better on the guitar.
This challenge focuses on the things that we know we need to work on. The uncomfortable things. The things that you hear other players doing that you wish you could do.
You don’t need someone to tell you what these things are. I’m sure you have a good idea what you need to work on. You know the things you are attempting that aren’t sounding great. Conquering these “next level” skills are what this next month is all about.
So what is it? What is the Guitar 30 challenge?
It’s a month of consistent, targeted practice. 30 minutes a day for 30 days . That’s what we’re going to do.
“That’s it, 30 minutes a day for 30 days, piece of cake, right. I can do that.”
We are going to need some things to make this happen:
Let’s talk about that last one right off the bat. We can keep track of all of this with a planning sheet and a calendar.
You can fill out a planning sheet and calendar on your own or get one here:
New link coming soon!
The way the Guitar 30 Challenge is scheduled this year is like this:
You can keep track of these dates on the calendar I’ve provided. For future listeners who would want to try this out on their own, just pick your planning day and keep the structure the same.
That means, if this sounds like fun and you are ready to take the challenge with me this year, the planning starts now!
Step one for this is:
What is going to be the theme for you for this challenge?
Pick a very general area that you need to work on.
This could be easy for some of you. If you have had an ongoing struggle with one part of learning guitar, that’s what we are looking for. If your timing or chords are always a challenge, write that down at the top of the planning sheet.
Get a piece of paper or start a new section of your practice notebook. At the top write Guitar 30 challenge. Right under that, write your theme for the month.
Here is an example:
For me It will be Scales. There are certain scales that I want to be a part of my playing. These scales I would like to be able to play effortlessly. To go into and out of like they were my own. The problem is that they aren’t the scales that I play on a regular basis. And I wouldn’t want them to be. They are scales that have a very distinct sound that are used better as spices than as the main ingredients. But because they aren’t used as much as the more meat and potato scales, I tend to avoid them because of being out of practice.
My desire for this challenge is to pick some of these scales and really make them become part of my playing.
How about you? What would be a great focus for you for a month of practicing?
Take some time and give it some thought.
If you are having a hard time deciding what the main theme of your challenge will be, try this out. Take a quick video of yourself playing a few of your favorite songs. Walk away for an hour or two and then come back to it with something to write on.
Take a look back at your video and write down the things you notice. Chances are that the things you are struggling with will pop out to you right away. Or, if everything looks good, think to yourself what would be the next step for my playing. What would you like to see yourself doing next.
Take a look at everything that you have written and make a decision on what would be the most logical thing to work on first. There’s your theme! Write that down on your planning sheet.
Before we continue filling out our plan for the month, let’s talk a bit about how this is all going to go. I normally advise a two part practice routine, half working on new skills and the other half having fun refining what you have already learned.
We are going to continue that here. But, I’d like to add some daily technique exercises to the mix for this challenge. We will play these for the first 10 minutes of each session.
That will give us three general parts.
Very frequently, my students are pretty quick to understand what a new skill is and how to do it, but they still end up struggling because their hand eye coordination is not up to it.
It’s a very common struggle. Because I’m not able to know everyone’s exact circumstance, I think a big focus on technique will be a good all around addition for our general theme.
Enter technique exercises. I’ve done a whole show and a post on them. They are great, easy to do, don’t require a lot of thinking, and give fantastic results for your coordination a very short amount of time. This was episode 4. Not a bad idea to go back and check it out if you haven’t used these wonderful exercises before.
An example of a beginner technique exercise is to play 1,2. That is the first finger on the low E string 1st fret and you pick it with a down-stroke. After that, you play the second finger on the second fret with an upstroke. Repeat this across each string and then back again
An example of an intermediate technique exercise is to play 1,2,3,4. Use the same process as before. This time its 1st finger on the first fret, 2nd finger on the second fret, third finger on the third fret, and finally 4th finger on the fourth fret.
We are going to need one exercise for each week of the challenge.
For beginners I would plan:
For Intermediate, I would plan:
For advanced guitarists: get creative. Write out 4 exercises using string skipping, stretches, you name it. Just have fun.
The trick with these is the tempo you choose to play them. At a slow enough speed, we can all do these pretty well. You have to find the speed that just starts to challenge you.
Spend a few minutes with a metronome to find the BPM that is the fastest you can play the first exercise comfortably. Start there, write it down on your planner, and increase it by one or two BPM on each practice session.
If you really start to struggle, go back to the previous BPM and work that for a few practices until you feel comfortable to move on. Make sure you keep a record of the tempo where you are currently comfortable.
Let’s take the theme you picked earlier and start to get a bit more focused.
Here, we are going to create a four week game plan. The first thing we need to know to really plan this out is: where you are now and what is the ultimate result you want. You could ask yourself something like this:
What am I having a problem with?
What is the result that I would like?
What are the steps required to achieve this goal?
That last question,, “what are the steps” is a tricky one when you are being self taught. This is where you need to do some research. Even if you are pretty sure that you have a good handle on what you need to learn, it’s a good idea to see what information is available to you on the subject.
You might learn that there are some other things available to help you in a more effective way. Do a search for tabs, chord charts, videos, blog posts on the subject and bookmark all that seem interesting to you. Take a look through them and see the general steps needed to master your new skill.
Take those steps and group them into four sections: one for each week.
Not knowing your particular goal, it’s impossible for me to tell you exactly how to break these up. Give it a shot though.
Does it seem reasonable that you would be able to achieve each of these steps in a one week period. If not, the goal you set may be unrealistic and you may want to reevaluate your theme. Instead of your overall goal for the month, you may want to focus on the first step or two as your month long theme and continue the next steps as further practice after the challenge.
Here is an example:
Let’s say that your overall Theme is to learn to play common bar chords.
The common bar chords that you might want to learn are:
Knowing these shapes can take you a very long way into great rhythm guitar. Let’s split them up into 4 groups over 4 weeks.
Enter in each of these in the notes for each week on your planner.
Ah, the game plan is starting to take shape.
We have a theme “Bar chords”.
We have our theme broken down into four week sections.
Now it’s time to take the next step…
Here we take each of our four weekly sections and work them. Using your resources, chart a course through the week. There are several ways that you can do this.
Whichever way you decide, it’s important to make these planning decisions ahead of time. Thirty minutes is not that much really, especially if you are spending most of it figuring out what to do or searching for you learning materials.
Write down your daily plan of attack for your practice on your challenge planner.
The last thing we need to plan is our play section. This is going to be the last 10 minutes of our daily challenge.
The idea here is to start to use the skills we are developing in a creative way. There are many ways to do this as well. The main ones could be:
One of the scales that I need to get more familiar with is the half-whole diminished scale that is played over 7th chords. After I work on the patterns in the previous section, I could use them to improv over a simple background track. Once I get comfortable with that, I could move on to learning a song that I know uses the scale – like “Scapegoat Blues” by Jimmy Herring. At the end of the week, I could move onto trying to write a song of my own using the scale.
I could do one of these, or space all three over the week. Whatever makes sense for my weekly goal. This way I’m getting used to using this new information for real music, not just as an exercise.
So, think about the ways that you are ultimately going to use these new skills and start to actually do it, right away. Move them from the woodshed to the stage. Get creative!
So now that we have our ideas thought out and planned, it’s time to get everything set up for this first week.
Once everything is in order….You are set and ready for tomorrow’s first day of the practice challenge. Very exciting, I’m going to get my prep going today! Which brings me to the most fun part of this challenge:
Having a good group of people who are working through something together is not only very fun but super beneficial. I’ve seen this over and over again when I taught group classes. Learning and working in groups, in my experience:
For a challenge like this, seeing what others have done, giving and getting supportive feedback, and keeping your motivation going is a must. But, how can we do that when we are spread out all over the world?
In last week’s episode “Learning Guitar In 2019”, I mentioned how I’ve seen the increased value of Instagram for students of guitar. Well, I’m going to put that into practice here. The easiest way to do that, to bring us all together is with a hashtag.
I’ll be posting my progress on a daily basis in several different ways: Instagram videos, pics, live-streams and stories. It may be a one minute video of my practice, an image of my practice sheet, a few 15 second stories, or the whole thing on live-stream. Whichever one I do that day, you can find them on my page. You can find and follow me on Instagram at playguitarpodcast.
I’ll make sure to use the #guitar30challenge hashtag in all of my content, so it will be easily found by a quick search.
I encourage you to do the same! Join me and the rest of the community in sharing and supporting each other. Let’s start documenting and sharing our progress together using the #guitar30challenge.
If you have not used Instagram before, this could be a good reason to try it out. But if you are dead set against it, I will also be posing on the playguitarpodcast Facebook fan page as well using the same hashtag for Facebook users who would like to participate as well!
What are we going to be able to show for all of this hard work? Oh, a whole lot!
First, you will have some great evidence of your work. Not only will you have a big jump in guitar skills, but, if you are sharing your video progress or just using video to keep track of your practices, you will have some great evidence of the progress you have made. This is super important to see. Just knowing that regular “time in the trenches” can give great results can completely change your approach to the guitar.
For a lot of guitarists, a structured approach that brings results is something that they have never experienced. Knowing what it feels like to get into a routine and reap the benefits is very motivational. Once you are in it, you may not want to go back to the way you used to practice before.
And the thing that I hope the most that happens for you, is the fun, inspiration and motivation that comes from being part of a great community.
So there it is, the Guitar 30 Challenge. I’m really looking forward to this, and not just for getting my own playing going. I love participating in fun stuff like this and I hope you will to.
I’ve gone over the:
All that is left is the big question:
I hope you do! This is going to be a lot of fun and I’m very excited to get started.
The only two things you need to remember are:
NEW LINK COMING SOON - for you to get your planning sheet and calendar
And the hashtag: #guitar30challenge
So, if you are with me, let’s get started today!