Note: this is the second article in a short series designed to help you play your guitar more often, because the more you play your guitar, the better you'll get! Check out part 1 here.
If you want to improve your guitar playing, you need to spend time playing guitar.
It seems obvious, but sometimes we need to have these things spelled out for us.
In part one of this series, we looked at making your guitar visible so you'll be more likely to pick up your guitar and play it.
In this lesson, we are going to explore creating a habit of playing your guitar more often.
It takes a little bit of thought and willpower up front, but before too long you'll be picking up and playing your guitar almost automatically each day.
Make Your Guitar Playing A Habit
You can build a habit by playing your guitar right after doing something else that you do every day.
Maybe you pick up your guitar when you pour your first cup of coffee in the morning.
Or right after you have lunch.
Maybe you have some down time as soon as you get home from work or school.
As long as it is something you do most days, it can serve as your trigger to start playing your guitar.
In my experience it takes a few weeks of doing this to make it automatic - but once you get used to the habit, you really don't have to remember to practice, try to get motivated, or anything like that.
You just pick up your guitar because thats what you do every day.
How To Start A Habit
To start out, pick something that you do on most days - and could realistically pick up your guitar for a few minutes afterwards.
For example, there were a few years where I would practice when my wife left for work, at about 6:40am every day.
She would leave, I would pour my coffee, and get my practice in.
This simple habit led to the most consistent practice schedule I had ever had.
When I was in college, I would practice for long hours.
Sometimes I was trying to get better in general, but sometimes I was cramming to get ready for a performance or an audition.
But then eventually would hit a wall and just not pick up the guitar for a few days. I got burned out, and ended up with typical schedule that I see with students:
Lots of practice on a couple of days out of the week, then almost no practice at all (on lesson or band material at least) for the rest of the week.
This is a recipe for working really hard, but not getting that much better overall.
It's About How Often You Play - Not How Much Time You Spend
Part of the problem with this is that when you are learning a skill, it's not all about how many hours you put in - it's about how often you work on that skill.
More times doing the work when you're fresh, and giving your system time to digest it before you start going again.
It's a game of minutes and hours over the course of a week - not in just one practice session.
The more often you work at some skill or song or anything else on your guitar, the faster you will improve at it.
Create a habit so that you are playing your guitar and working on your skills every day (or most days), and you'll be surprised at how quickly you get better.
Sidenote: If you're in college for music or looking for a career as a player, you absolutely have to put the time in as well. Over time try to increase the amount of time you are practicing each day. Build up to practicing 4-8 hours a day while in school.
As life changes your habits might need to change with it, so keep that in mind.
Now my wife's job is different, and she doesn't leave the house as early.
Rather than trying to force my old habit to work in a new situation, I just picked a new cue to work as my trigger to start practicing.
If your practice habit stops working all of a sudden, take a look at how your situation may have changed.
Maybe you attached it to a cue that was seasonal (coming home from school), or you picked up a new activity after work that conflicts with your old habit.
Once you figure this out, find a new cue to start building a habit around.
Think about something you do every day (or at least most days).
This could be making coffee, going to or coming home from work, or anything else that is automatically a part of your schedule.
Find a place where you can insert just a couple of minutes of guitar playing.
The goal isn't to find an hour of practice time, it's to find a little bit of time you can spend each day.
Once you're used to the habit and practicing regularly, you might be surprised at how much you can improve.
Keep practicing, and let me know how it goes!
Other Articles In This Series: