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I've been learning scales and chords, and tried a few songs. It sounds nice and by practising, I'm becoming faster and more comfortable. I also use the things I learn to improvise and jam. But I get the feeling I should rehearse more regularly. I notice I'm not progressing much in terms of expanding the scales and chords, or learning more difficult techniques.

How can I develop a regular rehearsal programme that allows me to enjoy the creative parts of guitar playing while still moving me forward on the basic techniques and theory?

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4 Answers 4

What you can try is to setup something concrete; a practice routine. Whether you practice daily, or not, when you sit down to practice you should have a clear goal of what you want to accomplish. When I was a classical guitar student my goal was Mon-Fri 4 hours a day, Sat 2 hours, Sunday off. I'd highly suggest you strive for a greater number of successive days practicing, rather than one marathon day.

When I could get a perfect practice session in, my sessions were usually broken down into a few areas. These are not necessarily concrete, and it's been some years since I was really practicing a lot... (also forgive me if some of these areas are classical guitar-oriented) :

  1. (15min) I would begin with very simple left and right hand exercises. Really easy, like one finger, one string... pluck, release tension, watch, listen.

  2. (15min) I'd pick a scale [I had dozens to pick from] and work on various aspects, some days it would be one or more areas of focus. Concepts like shifting, left or right hand, phrasing, speed, clarity, sound were all important.

  3. (90min) New pieces that I needed to learn. Sometimes these were broken down into little bits of technical exercises, or phrase repetitions.

  4. (120min) Current pieces I needed to maintain for recitals, competitions, etc. Again, sometimes I'd break down phrases or sections, other times I'd practice to perform, that is, pretending I was actually at a recital (no stopping, cursing, freaking out)

So for you, what you could do is this....

  1. X minutes - work on some old chords, adding a new one each session. At some point you'll have enough to make progressions and you'll have some nice variety.

  2. X minutes - pick a scale [for a day, week, month] and only work on that until you reach your goal [all X positions, a certain speed, etc.]

  3. X minutes - new songs. spend time breaking apart new songs you want to learn, don't just play the parts that you know, like, or are easy. The hard sections are the ones that will need the most focus, and that sort of analysis turns hard songs into easy ones.

  4. X minutes - old/current songs. Songs that you want to maintain, improve, or otherwise jam with. You have to keep them fresh by practicing or you'll forget them.

With a practice routine like this you have some time for the theory aspects [numbers 1 and 2], as well as the more fun, song-oriented practicing [3 and 4]. Naturally none of this is set in stone, and I switched my exercises within my routine all the time. The biggest piece of advice I can give is that you really need to make sure you have a goal in mind when you sit down with your instrument or you'll just waste time.

There's also some good advice at this post.

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I think @bluevoodoo1 has the right answer, apart from one thing that was important to me, but might not be to you depending on circumstances:

Booking practice rooms and playing with people - a band, or just jamming with friends!

I always found I would slowly imporve technically when practicing with a metronome or to music on my own, but I would make great jumps when actually riffing with musicians; the feel of the music would come to me much more naturally, and I could try things out in a real world scenario.

Seriously, find a good place to practice, book regular slots and find a group of like minded musicians (or even rotate who you play with to improve your variety)

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Your guitar routine should depend on your style of playing, level and on the amount of time you've got to play guitar. Check out Steve Vai's 30hr guitar workout. It's a bit extreme but has some awesome ideas in there.

Decide on what type of guitar player you want to be. That will tell you the areas you want to work on. If you want to be a metal player, concentrate on picking technique, muting etc. If you want to play jazz, work on music theory - stuff like chord-scale relationship, understanding harmony(this will take you a few years). Choose 3-4 techniques and work on them 1 technique a day. For example, I'm a rock player inclined towards improvisation. Here's what I try to work on:

Mon & Thu: Alternate Picking

Tue & Fri: Legato/Tapping

Wed & Sat: Economy/Sweep Picking

Sun: Music Theory

Now, I try to work on 3 things each session -

Warmup - very IMPORTANT. You're going to feel like shit if you jump into the exercises directly. 10 mins of this should be enough.

Exercises - Pickup exercises from books/magazines/videos and work on them. Try doing all of them in the same key. Its pointless doing an exercise if you can't do it in a musical context. @bluevoodoo1's post talks in depth about this.

Jam - Play over chords/backing tracks/with a friend and use only the technique you've decided to work on for the day. This is my favorite part of the routine and IMO the most helpful. Try to spend equal time on exercises and jamming.

Have a day off every week. Use it to read up on music theory or to write new music. Be creative.

Remember, this is a mere guideline. Try to be consistent but make sure you don't burnout by changing things around regularly. Take a day off once in a while to learn a new song or just jam. Any routine is pointless if you're not having fun doing it.

I hope this helps.

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Part of what you are doing is to learn skills mechanically enough that you don't have to think about what muscles need to move over here, and what amount of pressure over there is right. That means consistency. And for music, that means daily practice - 20 minutes every day is far better than 2 hours once per week.

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