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I've Googled this question and there is a jumble of answers out there with long articles with complicated answers, so I thought I'd ask for more personal opinions.

I learned the guitar about 13 years ago way back in high school. I played quite a bit, albeit by myself, for the next few years. I used to tab a lot of songs by myself, so my ear-training was pretty good. Then school and work got in the way and I didn't have much time for it. Now I wanna get back into it, but find myself clueless on what to play or practice. I can play some songs here and there, but it doesn't really mean much to me especially since I can't sing along.

I want to practice, but need a schedule to motivate myself. If I just randomly do a song or a scale, I don't think I'll learn much. On the other hand there's just so much to learn. Memorizing the fretboard, changing chords (I suck at barre chords, hands get cramped quickly), techniques (cannot pick very fast...), etc etc. After so many years I think I better start with the basics again, although maybe not from complete zero.

So that's my question. Your opinions are much appreciated.

Thank you

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Sounds like what you really need is a teacher: someone who can assess your current skill level and assign you appropriate exercises, help you to learn songs, scales, chords, and theory relevant to your musical interests, and track your progress from an experienced point of view. A good teacher will give you material to practice and master by your next lesson, so if you simply set up lessons on a regular basis (I recommend once a week if you can, but once every two weeks is ok, too), then your schedule and motivation is clear: learn this material by next week, whereupon you'll get new material to learn by the following week, etc.

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Thank you. That's actually not a bad idea. I'll give that some thought. –  rabbid Jan 14 '12 at 16:50

An awesome and inspiring book to get particular great excercises for your practice schedule is Scott Tennant's Pumping Nylon. It's very well structured and the exercises are also very well designed.

The author plays and talks about fingerstyle nylon string guitar, but the left hand patterns and excercises are also great for steel string instruments played with a guitar pick.

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I agree with Alex on getting a professional teacher - it's always the best idea if you want some real progress and a real structure to you practice.

Besides this, here are some general tips on creating a schedule:

  • Think of the things you want to practice and write out the list;
  • Think how much time you have for one practice session and assing a period in minutes to each practice stage;
  • Put things that require most mental activity at the beginning of your practice session and all the "mechanical" stuff near the end.
  • Assing atleast 50% of your practice session new material!
  • When you start practicing, lounch a countdown timer (every modern cell phone has this) with the time assigned for the given stage and don't stop, until timer tells you to.

Here is an example practice schedule for 1 hour:

  1. Warm-up / 5 minutes
  2. Excercises from a book you might have / 15 minutes
  3. Learning current new song / 15 minutes
  4. Scales and argegios / 10 minutes
  5. Repeating some songs you already know / 10 minutes
  6. Chord changes with metronome / 5 minutes

As you can see, all the new stuff, songs and excercises, are at the beginning, so you can approach them with fresh mind. Also, new material takes more than a half of your practice time - this way you will progress really fast and this progress will be your own motivation. And finally, setting up a timer will keep you focused and will give you a warm feeling of "I did my job for today" at the end.

Good luck in your playing!

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Thanks for your answer. "Think of the things you want to practice," but that's just it. There's just so much stuff I wanna practice I don't know where to start. Thanks for your recommendation. Will keep them in mind. –  rabbid Jan 14 '12 at 16:51
    
@rabbid I hear that, and that's exactly where a teacher will benefit you. I agree 100% with Silver Light's advice on how to make the most of your daily practice time, and between our two answers, I think you'll be in good shape. –  Alex Basson Jan 14 '12 at 19:42

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