Just like writing down your goals helps them to come to pass, writing out a practice schedule helps you plan and do the things that will make you the guitar player you want to be. Like I’ve mentioned before, your students need to know exactly WHEN they’re going to practice, for how LONG, and exactly WHAT they’re going to work on during each of their practice sessions.
Remember: if they only practice when they feel like it, it probably won’t be often enough. When they do practice, if they only play what they feel like playing at the time, it won’t be what they should be practicing to get the maximum results. As their teacher, you need to help your students do the work in advance, and chart out their course for development on the guitar…being disciplined in doing this one simple thing will reward them 10 times over in results.
If you read my articles on practicing, you already know how passionate I am about writing out a specific weekly practice schedule. Some students refuse to do this, because they don’t feel like it, or they think it’s a waste of time…but those are the same students who get stuck in a rut after a while. Urge them to take the time to do this! It’s not always as fun as just picking up a guitar and playing whatever comes into your head, but it WILL increase their results!
The whole issue of delayed gratification comes to mind here. We make a mistake when we put off doing a little bit of work up-front that can multiply our effectiveness, just because we don’t feel like it at the moment. Procrastination, in-action and hesitation can be some of the biggest enemies to making progress on the guitar. I want you to challenge your students to set the guitar down once a week, turn off the TV and organize their practice schedules like a pro. If they want to be a pro someday, they need to start thinking and acting like a pro today!
Writing out their practice schedule every week will also help your students protect themselves from the #1 killer of practice time effectiveness: feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Once they get into the habit of doing this, they’ll never have to wonder what they’re supposed to practice, for how long, and at what tempo. Their practice materials will always be organized, up-to-date and ready when they need them. And most of all, your students be able to make sure every week that what they practice is helping them get closer to reaching their musical goals. That’s what it’s all about, right? A little thinking and work at the beginning of the week is a small price to pay to get these kinds of results.
Here are some important things to keep in mind when you help your students create written practice schedules:
Take your student’s musical goals from the last post and help them set up a practice schedule based on that. Don’t use some method book, or some random tabs they found on the Internet when you do this…make sure EVERYTHING you include in their practice schedule lines up with their musical goals. Anything else will only be a distraction and a waste of time.
Update the practice schedule with them at their lesson every week! Don’t assume that once you do it the first time, it’ll be relevant and effective forever. As their goals change, your student’s practice schedule should also change. As they reach their current short-term goals, replace them with new ones, and update the practice schedule to make sure they’re always moving closer toward their goals. Even if you have to shorten the guitar lessons a little bit to update the practice schedule, they’ll get more accomplished during the rest of the week if you make the effort to do this. This is a great example of one of those things in life that pays big dividends if you discipline yourself to do it regularly.
Have your students write down the specific things they want to accomplish each time they practice. Don’t just let them list “play scales” or “practice chords” or “learn songs”…that’s way too general. Just like they were specific with their musical goals, they need to be specific with this written practice schedule. Help them answer probing questions like these:
“Which specific scales should you practice?”
“Which patterns of those scales should you focus on?”
“How fast (what BPM) should you practice them?”
“How many times should you repeat them?”
“Which chords should you learn?”
“Which specific songs should you learn?”
Once you have the answers, fill the details of the written practice schedule accordingly. This weekly practice schedule worksheet will give you a place to keep all this information organized.
Have them print the practice schedule out (or do it for them) and post it up on the wall so they can see it while they practice. It doesn’t help very much to think all this through, organize it, write it down, and then forget about it. Make sure they post it in a visible place, preferably in their practice area at home. This way, they can reference the schedule while they practice and they never have to wonder what to play next. I also like to check things off after I complete them, just to give me a sense of accomplishment while I practice. If the printed schedule is right in front of them, it’s easier for your students to do that.
Most important of all, try to get them to have fun with this! The whole point of organizing your practice times in advance is so you can just grab a guitar, look at the practice schedule and let it rip. Be careful not to let your students get so caught up in the schedule itself that they lose sight of why they put it together in the first place.
Do you have any tips or ideas about ways to practice more effectively? Please leave them in the comments for this article so we can discuss them together.
Click here to download the PDF lesson handout mentioned
in this article (“Weekly Practice Schedule”)