Developing an Individual Practice Routine

Updated on January 9, 2018
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Bob Craypoe (also known as R. L. Crepeau) is a musician, writer, webmaster, 3D artist, and creator of the Punksters comic strip series.

One problem many people have is time management. There simply does not seem as if there are enough hours in the day for everybody to get all of the things done that they would like to. This may be especially true for musicians, as it pertains to individual practice. It might just seem as if there is enough time to get in all of the practice we would like. There are some ways of maximizing our available time to be used for practice, though.

Develop Clearly Defined Musical Goals

First of all, you need to know exactly what it is you want to achieve through practicing. That starts with your musical goals. What do you want to achieve as a musician? Do you want to play more gigs or do more recording? Do you want to learn new techniques or work on various elements of music theory? Your practice routine should revolve around your goals, whatever they may be.

Let’s say that you want to get out there and play a lot of gigs but you simply don’t have enough material to do so. Well, that means that you have to learn more songs. So your emphasis when you practice should be working on new songs. Maybe you are a lead guitarist. That means you would have to spend a good amount of your time learning the lead solos for the songs you would like to perform.

Maybe you want to simply improve yourself as a musician by learning new scales or chords or certain techniques. That should be your emphasis when you practice. It all really revolves around what you want to achieve.

Think of All of Your Available Time

Time is obviously a limited resource, but we may be able to maximize our usage of time just by being more efficient with it. As an example, I play a few different musical instruments. Mostly, I play guitar, so I spend the bulk of my practice playing my guitar. However, I do spend some time practicing on the other instruments I play. I just do it in smaller blocks.

You see, time adds up. If I were to play my mandolin for just 15 minutes a day, that would add up to 105 minutes a week. that’s almost two hours a week of playing. Sure, that’s not a lot but there may be times when you are able to get more than one 15 minute block of time to practice something. Maybe I have 15 minutes in the morning before I leave for work. Maybe I practice a little at work on my lunch break.

One of the things I try to do is practice my singing or learning the words to a new song. Sometimes I print out the lyrics and will read them a few times throughout the workday. I can also play the CD for the songs I am learning in my car on the way back and forth to work. I learn it during my drive time. They call that multitasking.

Prioritize

Since we can’t always do everything we want every day, due to our various time restrictions, we obviously need to prioritize what we spend our time doing. You need to prioritize your practice time. As an example, you may think that the most important thing that you currently need to do is to practice scales. If that is the case, then the majority of your practice time should be spent practicing scales.

The first thing you need to do is make a list of want you really want to achieve. Then divide your practice sessions up to work on the various things you want to work on. Let’s say you have two hours a night to practice after work. You may divide that up into sections. Maybe the first half hour would consist of practicing scales. Maybe the next half hour would be working on the new songs you want to learn. Then the second hour could be spent practicing the songs you already know so that you won’t forget them. You basically divide your time doing the things that are most important.

Practicing Your Repertoire

My practice routine is not the same every night. I spend a couple of nights each week practicing my repertoire. The other nights I will be working on other things. If I played out over the preceding weekend, I just practice the songs that are on my set list that I did not get a chance to play on the weekend gigs. That’s the good thing about gigs when it comes to practice; you get to practice much of your material and get paid to do it.

Among those other things that I practice when I am not practicing on the songs currently in my repertoire, I work on new songs to add to my repertoire. I try to practice the songs I already know on Monday and Tuesday nights. Then I work on the other things on the other nights. I try to do the same routine regularly because it’s easy for me to fall out of the habit of practicing on certain things without a set schedule. That’s why developing a set schedule for practicing specific things is so important to me.

Practicing Scales, Solos and Techniques

Much of the time I spend practicing scales is actually done on an electric guitar that is not even plugged in. I do that while I am watching television. I may also do the same with practicing various techniques or when practicing certain lead guitar solos. It’s good to do that plugged in as well from time to time because it’s hard to tell what kind of clarity you will have with your playing if you only practice with the guitar unplugged.

Other times, I may want to work on soloing along with drum loops or with a drum and bass backing track. Or sometimes I will often choose a key to work in and just create a rhythm guitar loop with a loop pedal. Then I play a solo over it. I’ll just get some practice by doing some jamming, to work on some new soloing ideas. Much of it starts out with some improvisation but I will often come up with some ideas for solos for my own songs.

The Importance of a Steady Practice Routine

I think it’s important to have a steady practice routine for a number of reasons. First of all, you basically will want to cover a number of things with your various practice sessions. Having a set schedule will help to make sure that you are covering all of those things that you want to cover.

I find that, from a time management perspective, I get more done if I adhere to a strict schedule. I have other activities that I engage in and I try to do those things in a set schedule as well. It’s just what works best for me. It’s when I don’t do things by a set schedule that I have a tendency to not get as much done as I would like to. It takes a certain amount of discipline to stick to a strict schedule but I think it’s worth it because of the fact that it allows me to get more things done in the available amount of time that I have.

I realize that not everyone has as much time available to them as they would like to use for practice. It’s probably harder for those with a family than those who are single and without kids. But if you have an understanding spouse, you may be allowed a certain amount of time to practice. Having a set schedule worked out between you and your spouse will help to ensure that you will actually be able to get some practice time in. So having a set schedule can help with that as well.

Summing it All Up

So having a set schedule to not only practice but to also practice specific things on specific days and times is key to you being able to work on those things most important to you. It’s about prioritization, making the time and having the discipline to stick to the schedule. Once you establish a routine, it gets easier to stick to it after a while. You just need to develop a plan and try hard to stick to it.

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    © 2018 Bob Craypoe

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