Are you happy with your recent guitar practice and guitar technical progress? Do you wish you could learn even more in the coming months?
If so then here are 3 steps you could take to dramatically improve your guitar playing.
Set up Clear Guitar Practice Goals Using the SMART Approach
As musicians, we often tend to keep away from hard and specific goals. After all, music is an art and shouldn’t be measured, right? Well, I must disagree with this. In fact, setting up goals is a great way to learn faster. I think guitar players can greatly benefit from using tangible goals to improve their learning capabilities.
A great way to set your objectives is to use the SMART criteria’s. This is a well-known management method and can be applied to acquiring any skill set. It can help you reduce the guitar practice time required to achieve your goals. SMART is an acronym for different criteria for goal setting (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time).
Here is how you can apply this to your guitar learning.
Specific: Be precise about what you want to accomplish.
You should start big and determine what exactly you want to accomplish. What is it you really want to play or do? Do you want to write music, record songs, play better lead, etc.?
Then be more specific by elaborating on what style you want to play, what techniques you need to learn or improve. You need to be very concrete and pragmatic. You might need to do some research at this point.
Measurable: How will you measure your success?
It could be the number of songs learned, number of songs written or even how fast you can play specific scales or arpeggios over the metronome. You may be reluctant to try measuring your progress with such basic metrics but setting up measures even if not perfect is crucial to evaluate your success.
Attainable: Is it attainable?
Do you really think you can reach the specific playing level you aim for and if so how can you reach that? (Do your research.)
Relevant: Is it really what you need?
You need to be wise about your goals and choices. It’s probably no use wanting to learn how to shred if you want to play more local gigs or simply write more songs.
Time: Set a time frame.
Establish when you want to reach your goal. To do so you should evaluate the work that needs to be done by finding the guitar practice material you want to learn. This will make it more likely that you set a proper deadline that can be reached.
Do Your Research
This step is vital and will help you have a greater focus. To reach your goals you need to determine the exact path you will take.
You should start your research looking at the outcome. I would recommend starting with identifying the music and typical songs you want to play. You might want to listen to some albums and songs that you wish you wrote or could play before breaking it down to better understand what type of knowledge or technicality you will need to master.
You can then find the proper learning material and stick to it. Not all books or courses include the exact content you want to learn. By doing a good research you can focus on what matters to you and not what the author wants you to know.
If you can’t identify the exact techniques or theory, you need to learn you can ask friends and other musicians about the nature of the material you should practice. This will help you move your research faster. You could even ask your questions on guitar forums or Quora. I find the top answers on Quora are often of high quality in contrast to many guitar forums where there is a great deal of low quality and bragging answers (this off course depends on the established community).
Create Real Music
Record yourself or play live. Simply learning new stuff won’t be so useful and will probably never be truly mastered if you can’t put it in context. A great way to assure that you move forward is to apply your new-found knowledge in real music whether it’s by practicing with a real band or recording your own covers or musical creations.
Many guitar players including myself find great accomplishment and musical fulfillment by simply recording music in their home studio.
Also, it forces you to get everything together. It does not need to sound like it was recorded in a professional studio. Simply recording it will make it alive. Recording yourself is a great way to take a step back and better hear the results and how everything you have learned comes together.
Coming back to your guitar practice goals is a great way to move forward. As you learn and grow with them, it might be relevant to actualize them. You might find that the path you’ve set may be optimized or adapted to your new personal situation.
Finally, for all this to work, you need to write it down. You should at least create a list of the material you want to go through and remember that research is vital.
Let me know what you think about planning your practice, is it something you are prone to do?
Great advice, and I love the use of the SMART methodology–which you usually only hear used within corporations and business circles. I think some guitarists confuse guitar “practice” with guitar “playing.” When you’re just playing–noodling around and having fun–you can relax and see where the moment takes you, without structure, goals, etc. Same could be said for live performance. However, when you “practice” you do indeed need to get SMART about how you do things, because the point of practicing is to improve your skills, learn new things, etc. Only way to make that kind of progress on guitar is to be disciplined, set goals, measure progress, etc.
Thanks for your comment!
You have a great point, making a clear distinction between playing and practice is essential. I like to make it clear before I sit down with my instrument.
Also, I know using the SMART methodology might scare away many hobbyists but it’s a great way to get the most out of an often limited time.