Here’s my thoughts on practicing.
– Consistency vs Cramming
Consistency wins. One needs to maintain their callouses, and taking even a few days off can cause them to get soft. And I believe that it’s important for memorization – learning songs is easiest when it’s part of your daily routine. Also, cramming 12 hours of practice on the weekend and nothing during the week can actually cause damage to your hands/arms. Trust me, I’ve been there.
My recommendation is to set a minimum daily practice time – 15 min for young beginners, 30 – 60 for players with some experience. That way if you have more time on certain days, add another hour or two if you really want to advance quicker. Just don’t overdo it.
– What to Practice
Beginners should be practicing finger exercises, basic chord switches, and strumming. For more advanced players, work evenly on scales, learning songs, ear training, and improvising/soloing (classical players are exempt from this one ;-).
My advice: be careful. Most guitarists want to play fast, but don’t realize YOU MUST PRACTICE SLOWLY IF YOU EVER WANT TO PLAY FAST LINES or you’ll sound like one of those Shreds videos.
Don’t get me wrong, if you want to emulate some of your guitar heroes, you will need to practice fast to some degree, but you need to slow it down first to get the accuracy and rhythm together. I’ve seen many students who can play fast riffs somewhat sloppily, and then when you turn on a metronome at 50 bpm, they can’t play those same riffs without rushing like mad.
– Good-Ear.com is a great site for interval training. As long as you understand basic music theory about how scales are constructed, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Also work on learning songs by ear – this will often be tough for beginners, so start with interval training. I’ll be posting more on music theory soon, so hopefully that will help some of you get started. But remember, there’s no replacement for a good private teacher 😉
I could write a novel about practicing, so let’s end this one here. More to follow…