a practical guide for the busy guitarist
Have you ever felt overwhelmed when considering the amount of things you want to develop on your guitar? Perhaps there are days when you feel so overwhelmed that you end up almost paralyzed by stress and end up not achieving anything at all.
I recently faced this dilemma. It was so bad that I could not sleep because I was constantly thinking about what needed to be done and blaming me for all the things I did not achieve during the day. I realized that my problem was not the lack of motivation, but rather a lack of method. The most efficient times of my life where times when I was tied to a method and a clear schedule. Knowing what needs to be done is often harder for me to figure out than actually doing it.
As musicians, we are most of the time on our own when it comes to developing our craft. Sure, there are teachers, magazines and JamPlay to help us, but the truth is that these are only tools. None of these will make you a better player without your discipline. We all need it if we want to improve.
My problem for the last years was lack of a set schedule. I realized that even though it felt like I was working 12 hour days, I actually did only about six hours of actual work. In other words I spend half of my working day doing random stuff that did not help me achieve anything. This time could have been put to better use and make me feel like I had a life outside of work.
You might be in that situation too. It can be a bit difficult to organize your practice time without having someone do it for you. I recently decided to make changes and learned how to create a personal schedule that would allow me to be much more efficient and at the same time work less hours. Hopefully this article will inspire you to do the same.
The Big List
Before you start making your schedule, you need to know precisely what it will be made of. This list will be unique to you as we all aspire to different things. The method remains the same though.
What is it you want to achieve? Do you want to play like Joe Satriani? Do you want to be a composer? Do you want to be the best blues player that ever lived? Ask yourself the big questions. Don't worry if your dream sounds impossible. This list of big goals will help you target specific areas of your playing and help you determine which subjects your schedule will be made of.
Once your main goals are listed, make a list of all the things you can think of that you can work on. This list will most likely be very big. Your big list will be made of lots of exercises as follow:
- John Petrucci sweeping lick.Don't worry about organizing your list for now, just write all the things you can think of that will help your musicianship one way or the other. Building your list with a computer will save you time as you most likely will have to tweak it a bit as you elaborate. Remember that the list is expandable and will be adjusted as you work on it.
- 3 note per string church modes.
- Develop new ideas over Dorian backing track.
- Write song to submit for this month's contest.
- Learn how to use Garageband.
The idea with the list is to keep track of all the tasks you want to achieve. Once you achieved one, you can cross it out. Not only will it give you a great sense of achievement, but it will also help you see which areas of your learning need to be focused on.
Now comes the time to organize your big list into categories. These categories are more general and will be used to make your schedule. Following is an example of what your categories might look like:
- Phrasing.Once again, your category list will most likely vary from player to player. Those categories should reflect your long time goals because you came up with them according to the big list of tasks you planned earlier.
Each category should be general enough to include a fair amount of tasks. If you find that one of your tasks cannot be placed under one of your sections, see if you can maybe break that task into several smaller ones that might fall into one of your main categories.
Assigning a unique color to your categories is a good way to keep things organized. Once you decide on a color, highlight with a marker all your tasks depending on which category it will fit.
Managing Your Time
You should now have a good idea of what is ahead of you. It's now time to write your schedule. Your categories are all the subjects you will have to fit. Make sure you know ahead of time how much time every day you can use to practice effectively without any distractions. For some it might be an hour, others might have more. The amount of time spent here is not the most important aspect of this tutorial. What is important however is to have a good planned schedule and stick to it.
The number of tasks found in each categories will determine the frequency and time spent per subject. Someone who wants to become a composer might spend more time on theory and writing than someone whose dream is to become the fastest guitar player in the world.
Following is an example of my personal schedule. Each category is clearly marked by a different color which allows me to see what I am focusing at any given time. The blue categories correspond to my work for Jamplay. That category includes tasks such as "live Q&As", "writing backing tracks", and so fourth.
After putting this method to the test I can honestly say that I am much more efficient and less stressed out than I used to be. I work less, achieve more and finish at decent hours.
I strongly recommend that you try this if you haven't already. If you're like me, a structure will help you achieve what you need to without feeling overwhelmed by the task set in front of you.