blog_post_2015_nov_02In Part 1, we started the process of doing the necessary groundwork that will help you to choose a suitable teacher, and also help you get more value from the guitar lessons. If you did the steps outlined in the first article, then at this point you should have done the following three things…

  1. Defined your areas of interest.
  2. Defined specific skills that you’d like to improve.
  3. Defined specific frustrations that you’re currently experiencing.

Even if you stopped here, you’d have a LOT more clarity about exactly how you want a potential guitar teacher to help you. While this is awesome, let’s not stop—there are still a few really important things you can do…

 Step 4:  Prioritise Your Skills And Frustrations

Now that you have a long list of skills you’d like to develop, and frustrations you’d like to overcome, it’s now time to work out which ones are most important to you.

One way of prioritising your skills is to put an asterisk, or other symbol, next to the ones that you’d be willing to work really hard for. Be honest with yourself—if you wouldn’t be willing to get up super-early in the morning to work on developing the skill before work, then it’s probably not that important to you.

If you’re an extremely motivated and disciplined guitarist, then you might have put an asterisk next to all the items on the skills list. If this is the case, then just work out what the most important ten items are. You can do this, by asking yourself this question…

If I only had enough time to work on ten items, what would I choose?

What about the frustrations? If applicable, you can use the same method of prioritising as you did for the skills. But, if it’s not applicable, you can simply ask yourself what frustrations you’d feel most excited about overcoming—you can then put an asterisk next to those ones.

 Step 5:  Think Of At Least One Long-Term Goal That Excites You

Even if you have no aspirations of being a professional guitarist, setting at least one long-term goal for your guitar playing that excites you is really helpful. This is because..

  • It helps you to maintain enthusiasm. Many guitarists, if they don’t have a compelling reason for working really hard at their playing, will lose enthusiasm when the inevitable obstacles get in the way. This causes them to either stop practicing, or start practicing in a half-hearted way—both of which will pretty much guarantee non-existent progress. On the other hand, if you’re excited about where all the hard work is heading, then you’ll be much more likely to persist when the going gets tough.
  • It focuses the learning process. Most guitarists are doing it for a hobby, so they might only have an hour or two a day available for guitar practice and musical development. This means that there simply isn’t enough time to get good at everything that you’re interested in. (Side Note: Because of the vastness of music, this is true even if you have many hours a day available for practice! 🙂 ). What this means is that you need to carefully allocate your practice time based on your priorities. And taking the time to set long-term goals will help you to decide what your priorities are.
  • It helps your guitar teacher with lesson planning. A good guitar teacher will find out what a student’s long-term goals are, and then translate them into a plan of action that will get the student moving in the right direction. So if you don’t know where it’s all heading, then it’s impossible for your teacher to plan lessons in a strategic way.

Although it’s not my job to tell you what your long-term goals should be, here are some tips you might find useful…

  • Write down your goals using SMART criteria. I’ve found that using the SMART criteria very helpful in my own goal setting, and I highly recommend using it.
  • Make sure that the goals excite you. If imagining yourself accomplishing your goal makes you feel excited and motivated to practice, then you’re on the right track!
  • Make the time frame 3-5 years away. Obviously, everyone will have a different idea of what constitutes “long-term”. (In this age of instant gratification, I wouldn’t be surprised if some guitarists consider three weeks long-term!). In my opinion, a time frame of 3-5 years is a good time frame for long-term musical goals—it’s definitely long enough to make some very ambitious playing goals achievable. Of course, you might disagree with me, and prefer to make the time frame shorter or longer.

 Step 6:  Schedule Time For Practice

Even the most skilled guitar teacher can’t help you if you don’t practice, so it’s critical that you decide ahead of time when you’ll practice. If you don’t do this, then (in my opinion) it’s a pretty good sign that guitar practice isn’t a priority in your life. And if it’s not a priority, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to be maintain the consistency of practice that’s necessary for steady progress.

You might be wondering how much time you should schedule for practice. Well, that all depends on your goals and your level of ambition. If you have very modest goals, such as learning camp fire songs, then setting aside 30-minutes a day would be more than adequate. On the other hand, if you have much more challenging goals, such as learning very fast metal guitar solos, or other music that’s highly technically, then you’re going to have to set aside substantially more time than 30-minutes a day.

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to set aside the same amount of time each day. To see what I mean, let’s take a look at an example of someone that works a standard 9-5 job…

Example: Scheduling Practice with 9-5 Job
  • Monday to Thursday: 6:20am – 7:00am | 9:00pm – 9:20pm
  • Friday: 6:00am to 7:00am
  • Saturday: 10:00am – 12:00 noon.
  • Sunday: Rest Day

In the example above, you can see…

  • On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they intend to get up early and do a 40-minute practice session. This is because they’re usually really tired after work, and don’t feel that it will be realistic for them to do a long practice session.
  • On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they plan to do a short 20-minute practice session in the evening.
  • On Friday they will get up even earlier and do a 60-minute practice session. This is because they usually have social activities scheduled on Friday evenings.
  • They plan to do 120-minutes of practice on Saturday morning.
  • Because they don’t want their guitar practice to feel like a chore, they plan to have a guilt-free break from practicing on Sunday.

This person normally gets up at 7:00am on work days, so getting up earlier to practice might initially suck, until they get used to it. But if improving their guitar is important to them, then I’d hardly call it an unreasonable sacrifice. 🙂 And if they were to stick to this practice schedule over the long-term, they would notice a dramatic improvement in their playing.

A Few Last Words

By taking the time to do all the groundwork I’ve recommended over the last two articles, you’ll significantly increase the chances of…

  • Finding a teacher that’s a good fit for you.
  • Getting great results from the lessons that you take.

And because you’ll be investing both your time and money in guitar lessons, doesn’t it make sense to do everything you can to maximize your return on investment? 🙂

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