“I spent so much time saving time, I can’t find any time to spend.”  That’s a line from a song by Peter, Paul and Mary and it pretty much describes how my life has been lately—with work, home responsibilities and writing. Honestly, I haven’t picked up my guitar in a couple of weeks. I still go out and play at a church weekly, but that’s just strumming a few chords. Not really practicing or challenging myself at all. 

 

Over the years, I’ve accumulated hundreds of songs. I’ll never get to all of them. I learn parts of some, but never master that many. There just isn’t enough time. I know I’m going to get back to it, but as time passes my skills will deteriorate. 

 

I wonder if I’m going to spend the ½ hour a day I used to put in or will I just coast? My guitar teacher is out on tour of Tasmania and I haven’t seen him in weeks. I try to get 2-4 lessons in a month when he’s here so even when I don’t practice, I get solid time in on the guitar.

So, what do we do when life gets in the way of what we enjoy most? My plan was to learn 3 songs a month and build up a repertoire to play at hospitals and nursing homes. I’m a middle aged guitar student and started way too late to have plans to play at stadiums and concert halls.cLittle old ladies with tambourines will be my audience if I ever get up to speed on these songs.

I have classical arrangements of popular music arranged by an amazing arranger, David Walbert, a master guitarist from Alabama. I want to add jazz to my repertoire, but I think jazz is the calculus of music and requires more than the ½ hour I could put in if I decide not to sleep.

I still listen to music in the car on my way to work.vI need to keep getting inspiration.  I need to get inspired to pick up the guitar again. I get up before 6am these days. I used to noodle around during that time. The people I live with don’t seem to mind as long as I play lullabies. Fortunately, I don’t have a classical arrangement of Black Sabbath so they are spared that breakfast experience.

 

When I did practice, the people in my house were complimentary. That’s an inspiration to keep going.  Maybe I should try recording myself to get back on the practice track and see how much I improve over time. I guess we all try whatever is in our arsenal to keep practicing.  I used to joke with my teacher, Richard Gilewitz, that I wanted to learn new songs, but that p.s. “Not practicing”.  It became a running joke.

I know I’ll never be a pro.  And maybe all I’ll ever do is play at hospitals and nursing homes.  But I know that I’ll put in the effort again.  As soon as Richard comes back from Tasmania.

 

— Charles Lawrence

 

8 Steps to Creating Your Own Guitar Practice Routine
Courtesy Tom Hess

Step 1. Get very clear on what your LONG TERM guitar playing / musical goals are. Beware of distractions… there is a big difference between ‘short term goals’ and ‘distractions’.  True short-term goals should be consistent with your long-term goals. If they aren’t, then you might be simply distracting yourself from what you really want to achieve as a guitar player and musician. When creating your practice routine, focus mainly on long-term goals.

Step 2. Balance your existing strengths and RELEVANT weaknesses. Seek to turn your strengths into super strengths and ‘only’ work on weaknesses that are truly ‘relevant’ to your goals (see step 4 below).

Step 3. Be realistic about how much time you can practice each day. As mentioned above, you can and should allow ‘free time’ in your schedule to learn, practice, or do other things with your guitar outside of your written guitar practice regimen.

Step 4. You must be 100% sure you really know all the musical elements which are needed to reach your long term goals, AND you need to be clear about which of these elements are the ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ priorities for you to focus on right now in order to reach your specific goals. To get help, I have created a totally free resource for you to use http://tomhess.net/GoalsManifestation.aspx

Step 5. Contrary to popular belief, creativity CAN be taught, learned and practiced. Always include creativity development into your practice schedule (or work on it at least in your free time).
 
Step 6. Application is key! Be sure to add time each day to work on applying your skills even if you have not mastered them yet! It’s a big mistake to work only on mastering something before seeking to apply it.

Step 7. Don’t create the same schedule for each day of the week, your schedule should be based on larger period of time (I use an 8-day practice and learning schedule for my students – works much better compared to a routine that repeats itself each day). Maybe 2, or 3 of the days are the same, but the other days are a little different (yet still based on the above steps mentioned).

Step 8. Create 3-5 different 8-day practice regimens. Use each one twice (16 days) before working with the next one. Be sure that when you create them that each are based on the first 7 steps above.