I’m self-taught as a guitarist. Which means I wasted a lot of “practice time” repeating the few things I sort of knew, with no idea how to improve. Sound familiar? Back in 1988 I had strummed for a few years when I heard my buddy finger-pick a Mississippi John Hurt song. That was humbling ! I realized I didn’t really know much about the guitar. And it’s fair to say my practicing sure didn’t have structure. Oh, well. I guess I’ve become the guitar player I set out to be. Kinda. But, boy, do I wish I could go back in time!
Here’s the structure I would impose upon myself if I could do things over. I’m keeping this general because your goals as a musician are unique. But I want to help you invest your practice time wisely, on things worthy of your attention !
1) focus on your picking skills DAILY. Scales, of course, but for me Irish fiddle tunes really advanced my abilities.
2) learn a BIG variety of rhythm guitar patterns, both with a pick and finger-picking. I found what I needed by going back to Folk, Country and Blues techniques.
3) play with a metronome often. That’s how you measure your progress in 1) and 2). Plus, you’ll develop great time.
4) schedule your days so there is ALWAYS practice time. Sacrifices will have to be made. Good luck.
5) ear-training. Look online for free courses. The best musicians have the best ears. Until they turn it up to 11.
It’s important to notice what I didn’t include here. Shopping for your next guitar, watching behind-the-scenes documentaries, reading gear reviews, researching the best brand of strings…. I’ve done all those things myself, at the expense of my own guitar playing. Reward yourself with all that AFTER meeting your weekly goal of “x” number of hours actually working on your chops. You won’t regret it.
If you’ve read this far, you’re pretty serious about finding structure in this Information Age. I hope this helps, or at least stimulates you to revise my ideas to suit your goals. Create a routine. Do your homework. Plan ahead. Stay focused. And, yeah, take a break now and then. I mean, have you seen that video of the 1-year old who plays just like B.B. King ? 🙂