If you’ve been learning guitar for a while, then you might have noticed that there are two broad categories of things to practice…
- Project-based practice items. These are practice items where it’s very easy to define an endpoint. An example of this would be learning a song that you like. Once you can play the song at a level you’re happy with, then you can consider the project “complete”.
- Never-ending practice topics. These are practice topics that could potentially be worked on for the rest of your life. An example of this would be improving your guitar scale knowledge.
Many students have no lack of motivation with project-based practice items. For example, some students of mine can put in insane amounts of practice over the course of a week by learning a cover song they like. This is great—and if their only goal is to learn cover songs, those students will usually not have any trouble motivating themselves to practice.
But never-ending practice topics can be a bit more tricky. Some students really enjoy the process and have no trouble practising things that don’t really have an endpoint. They just keep on practising each week and don’t worry about the fact that they’ll be working on that practice topic for a very long time. But other students quickly lose motivation and stop working on the topic, well before they’ve made significant progress.
Create Projects To Build Motivation
If you’re the sort of person that needs specific endpoints in your practice, then it can be very useful to create projects for never-ending practice topics. Here’s some simple steps you can take…
- Decide on a time goal. This is the specific amount of time you’ll work on the practice topic. For example, you might decide that once you’ve done ten hours of practice on improving your guitar scale knowledge, then your project is complete.
- Find some specific things to practice. This will depend on what practice topic you’re focusing on. If you wanted to improve your guitar scale knowledge then you might choose a specific scale and also some specific exercises that use that scale. If you’re currently getting guitar lessons, then you might want to ask your teacher what you should practice.
- Decide on a daily practice amount. This is how much time you’ll invest each day working on the project. Deciding on this will allow you to work out an exact end point for the project.
- Keep track of your efforts and progress. For this step you’ll write down what you practised and for how long. It’s also a great idea to keep track of things like the metronome speed settings you used (if applicable). I like to use a spreadsheet for this but feel free to use any method you want.
- Keep practising until the project is complete. Don’t allow yourself to get side-tracked—focus on the project until it’s done!
A Specific Example: My Eb Hungarian Minor Scale Project
Although the specifics of these steps will depend on your personal goals, interests and situation, you might find it helpful to see an example from my own practice history. Let’s get started…
- Time Goal. For this project, I decided that I wanted to practice guitar scales for fifteen hours.
- The Specifics. One scale I wanted to get better at was the Hungarian minor scale. So for this project, I decided to focus on the Eb Hungarian minor scale. Once I had chosen the scale, I then composed eleven technique exercises and two ear training exercises that used this scale. Lastly, I made a note that I would spend at least a couple of hours improvising using the scale as part of the project—no point learning a scale if you can’t use it in a musical setting! 🙂
- Daily Practice Amount. My goal was to work on this project for 25 minutes a day until complete. So, assuming I stuck to this amount of practice, the project would take me 36 days to finish.
- Efforts and Progress. There’s no point writing down all the details here, as it isn’t relevant to you. But I can say that I didn’t practice every single day and practised more than 25 minutes on some days. This is important to mention, as most people aren’t going to be 100% consistent with their practice. But, as long as you’re still working towards completing the project each week, it doesn’t really make too much difference if you miss the occasional day of practice.
- Project Complete. It took me 39 days to complete the project, which meant I finished a few days later than my estimate. I definitely felt that my knowledge of the Hungarian minor scale improved a lot because of the project—good result overall.
Create Your Own Project
If you’ve been lacking the motivation to tackle some of those vast and long-term practice topics, I highly recommend creating a practice project of your own. You’ll be more focused, feel less overwhelmed and make more progress.