It’s a dangerous combination. You’re busy, but you were dedicated and chiseled out some time in your tight schedule for your practice. Congrats! Here’s the problem: Because you have been so good about practicing, you now have a good amount of things to work on-more than the practice time you’ve allotted yourself allows, and you can’t really make more time. How are you going to get to everything, let alone give each item the attention it deserves?
A lot of people get stressed out at this point in their progress, because it seems like the only answer is to start practicing more. Yes, this solution will provide the best results, but it’s not the only way to make steady progress, especially since a lot of times making more practice time for yourself is easier said than done. This is especially true for adult students.
So how can we still make progress? The answer is simply to divide your time wisely.
If you practice 20 minutes a day and spend all 20 of those minutes on arpeggios, you’ll become a great arpeggio player, but everything else will suffer. We need to make sure we get to everything to become well rounded players. For students with full schedules, I usually offer two solutions: Split Practicing, and Percentage Practicing.
Split Practicing is essentially taken from the idea of a Split Workout regimen. Just like how people might work out their chest and triceps Monday, back and biceps Tuesday, and Legs Wednesday, you can divide the things you need to work on up throughout the week. Something like scales and repertoire on Monday, Triads and Speed Building Tuesday etc. This plan works especially well if you tend to practice for the same amount of time when you sit down to do so. It ensures a nice even spread among all of the things you need to work on, as well as making sure they all get a good amount allotted to them.
Another effective but slightly more flexible option is what I call Percentage Practicing. This method is good for people who have to change the amount of time they get to practice from week to week, or day to day. Essentially, you take the number of things you need to work on and assign them a percentage of your practice time. Maybe 25% to scales, 25% to a song you’ve been working on, 25% to metronome work and 25% to improvising.
If you sit down to practice and you know that you have a full hour to practice, then awesome! Just spend 15 minutes on each of those things. If you had a bit of a crazy day so you only have 10 minutes to practice, then no worries; you can still get two and a half minutes in for each, which is still better than none.
I like this style a lot because it leaves little excuse to not practice every day. A lot of times if people don’t have half an hour to practice, they just don’t at all, but still getting in even ten minutes of practice daily will add up a lot quicker than being inconsistent.
Both of these options are also valuable since you can tweak things as necessary if you’re having a hard time with something in particular. Is there a piece that needs a little extra attention? Just add it to more days of your split, or assign it a higher percentage. This will make sure you practice your main obstacles, but don’t fall behind on the other things you’re working on.
Any other great practice ideas you want to share? Leave a comment below!
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Guitar Instructor, Co-Owner
Falls Music School