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#1 Key to the most effective guitar practice session you’ve ever had

Human psychology is a fascinating thing.

We say we want something but when there is an opportunity to actually work toward that goal, we do nothing.

We want to become the best guitar players humanly possible but when the time comes to walk the talk and put in the work we start looking for excuses.

We says things like: “If only I had more time…:”, “It’s too difficult…”, “I don’t have talent…”, “I can never be so good…”.

We are searching for an easy way out when we should toughen up and keep our nose to the grindstone.

Even though we understand that the only way how to become good at playing guitar is by deliberately working on things that we can’t do, we pretend that we can get there by half-assing our practicing.

I see it constantly with my private students and there is abundance of this mentality online.

Here are few quotes that I’ve found online:

“I play guitar every day, but usually late night, unplugged in front of the TV. Every night I watch some old Law and Order episode, then pop in my Star Trek DVDs and watch those. While I am watching, especially the Star Treks, which I know almost forward and backwards, I play my guitar.”

“I also play unplugged in front of the TV watching baseball, Sports Center or Lost. Run up and down a few scales in different keys, practice songs I know so I don’t forget them. And work on new songs.”

“I play un-plugged while surfing & watching TV.”

Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing bad about “practicing” your guitar in front of the TV and watching Seinfeld reruns. I am not here to judge people. Do whatever you like.

You can watch all the TV in the world but don’t complain that you are not as good as you wish to be. And don’t tell me that if you just had more talent or more time then everything would be different.

That’s bullshit.

Things will be different only if you change your attitude towards practicing your guitar.

Let me put this straight:

You are not good because you don’t take your practicing seriously.

And the same is true for me:

I am not as good as I wish to be not because I lack talent but because for very long time I was not willing to give what it takes to become a good guitar player.

I believe that mastering the art of practicing is really the first and probably most important step for your success as a guitar player and musician.

Effective guitar practice is no accident. There is a key to massively improve the way you practice guitar.

Do you know what that is?

FOCUS

Yes, it is that simple.

It doesn’t matter how long you practice, if you cannot keep your mental focus.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how talented you are or how extraordinary you are if you can’t direct you attention towards the task at hand.

It may be obvious to you but I can guarantee you that most of the time you don’t even realize that your focus is wandering away.

“Practicing” guitar while watching TV and thinking how clever you are killing two birds with one stone, is pretty childish.

Multi-tasking doesn’t work. It’s proven, it’s a fact.

You are only cultivating your appetite for distraction. And remember – the more you do this, the harder it will be for you to focus.

Focus and mental energy is something that we should protect. Practicing and playing guitar are both creative tasks that require lots of attention. The quality of both goes way down if you don’t put 100% in.

I am yet to see a pro athlete watching TV during his workout.

Ok Lukas, so how do I keep me focus? I am glad you ask, let’s examine that.

How to keep your focus?

As you probably already know, it is quite easy to lose your focus in a split of a second.

Either you get bored by the task at hand or some kind of distraction can interrupt you. Or maybe you just start thinking about something that needs to get done later in the day.

Probably you cannot get rid of all the distractions in your environment, but you can definitely eliminate most of them. A little bit of prevention goes a long way.

Here’s what I want you to do before your next guitar workout:

Step #1: Turn off all distractions

  1. Let everybody around you know that you are going to practice and that you should be not interrupted. Close the door so everybody knows you mean business.
  2. Put your phone in Airplane mode.
  3. Block off your internet connection – I use StayFocusd for this.
  4. If there are any other possible distraction, block them.

Step #2: If some thought or idea distracts you from what you are practicing, write it down

  1. Have a pen and paper ready
  2. Jot down everything that comes to your mind – any ideas, thoughts, tasks that need to get done, everything.

Step #3: Set a timer

  1. Grab your guitar practice journal so you instantly know where you left off yesterday and what you need to work on today
  2. Choose a very specific thing that you want (need) to practice.
  3. Set a timer for a short amount of time – 5 to 10 minutes. If 5 to 10 minutes seems like a very small amount of time, break the task down into smaller chunks.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Step #4: Know what you want to accomplish

Here’s a simple technique that I call “focus shifting”.

I have created a video where I walk you through sample practice session to demonstrate how I use “focus shifting” during my practice sessions. You can get access to the video by subscribing below:


The basic idea behind this technique is this:

No matter what you are practicing, the key is what you are focusing on while you are practicing it.

Before and during every exercise, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the goal of this exercise?
  • What do I need to focus on while working on this?
  • What weaknesses am I trying to cure?
  • How many repetitions do I need to make?
  • How can I make this exercise more effective?
  • Is there tension somewhere in my body while I am doing this exercise?

Asking these questions will direct your focus towards solving the problem area. You don’t wait for your focus to wander, but you actively direct it towards where you want it to be.

This is the reason why you don’t want to practice for long stretches. Applying this kind of focus is mentally very draining and therefore hard to sustain for long periods. But the payoffs of this intense work are huge.

By applying steps that I’ve showed you above, you can start building your laser focus. Remember, it won’t be easy at first but you’ll get better with practice.

We don’t go for perfection here. Even if you just turn off all the distractions, you’ll be immediately miles ahead from other guitar players who spend their guitar practice time watching TV.

We live in a world that is full of distractions. It is your responsibility to direct your focus towards the things that matters to you. And if you are serious about playing guitar, then working on your craft should be your priority.

Otherwise you are just fooling yourself.

If you want to get a FREE video where I exactly show you how I apply focus shifting technique in my practice routine, subscribe below.

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7 Responses to #1 Key to the most effective guitar practice session you’ve ever had

  1. Paul April 8, 2015 at 6:38 am #

    Thank you for those very helpful insights. Sound is seductive and we fall in love with an instrument because of what we are hearing and then feeling in response. Listening to others is highly motivating but critically listening to what you are practicing can be exhausting. To maintain focus I limit my practice time to 15 minutes at a stretch. This has helped me progress far more than hours of noodling. I have also found affirmations very helpful to state aloud before each exercise to keep my brain in the game. Belief=behavior=outcome.

    • Lukas Kyska April 10, 2015 at 8:20 am #

      You are right, limiting practice time is a great way how to boost your focus. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Linda April 14, 2015 at 2:52 am #

    I find that if I stop I will really get side tracked,therefore i do practice for 45 to 60 minutes. Then i may come back later an just pick at a song I’am working on. I guess different for each person but I’ will FOCUS an try the 15 minute time. Yep, sometimes I would practice in front of the TV, will def quit that habit. Thanks for the advice. LindaP

    • Lukas Kyska April 14, 2015 at 7:49 am #

      You can practice for 45 or 60 minutes, but try to break it down into smaller chunks with specific micro-goals. Test it and see how it will go. Let me know.

  3. Greg April 19, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    Great article Lukas. It is funny how much we think we “focus”
    during our day but you don’t really see what real focus is until
    you try this approach. I do have a few questions though.

    You list a set of questions to ask yourself during the practice. Most
    of them are self explanatory but lets say you are working on 1 or 2
    bars of a song. How do you determine the amount of repetitions
    you need to make? Also, how do you make the exercise more effective?

    • Lukas Kyska April 20, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

      Thank you Greg for your comment.

      How many repetitions you need depends on how difficult is the movement. But good rule of thumb is to stop when you start being fluent with that movement. Then check it hour or two later and do few more until you reach fluency. Repeat until you can make that movement fluent right away.

      Effectivness of exercise depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Can you be little bit more specific so I can give you better answer?

  4. Greg April 22, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

    Thanks for your reply Lukas.

    After thinking a bit about my question on making the exercise
    more effective, I think I have my answer. I was learning a few bars
    of a song and had a hard time applying this question (the how can I make this more effective) to the music.

    The part I was confused on was changing the riff to learn something new but now re-writing
    the riff, which is impossible. Then I thought about why I wanted to learn that riff, what do I like about it. Now I can take that answer and move it around the board and create something with it. I think that is the real outcome we are looking for as players, otherwise we learn it and quickly forget it.

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