Do Not Disturb
(17 May 03)
Introduction and Time Management
Oh well, so you wanna seriously start practicing, huh? Do you have all the tools you need? A guitar, some exercises, a metronome? Cool! Now, what about time?
Time is an important factor here. And not only do you need to make some time for your practicing, you also wanna use that time efficiently. Believe me, short practicing- sessions on a REGULAR basis, and used efficiently are way more valuable than one big practicing session every once in a while, interrupted by all kinds of distractions.
First of all, you want to designate an approximate amount of time you wanna dedicate for your practicing. I know that sometimes it's tough to do, cuz all kinds of stuff can happen. Also, when you do have a 9 to 5 -job and a family, it's sometimes very tough to set aside a chunk of time to practice.
But let's say you have two hours. That is already quite a lot of time. I know, lots of players, like Satch and Vai, always mention in interviews that they used to practice 10, 12 or even 18 hours a day.
Now, let's just say that that is true. What's important is that it isn't easy to work up to that amount of practicing time. And you do have to work up to it, most likely.
Let's say you're still in school, and the summer-break just started. I wouldn't recommend to try sitting down and practicing 12 hours on day 1 of your break. Especially not if you didn't practice on a regular base or only practiced like 30 minutes a day in the time before that break.
You need to work up to a long session. Some have less problems with that than others. Let's compare it to cars... Some cars are able to speed up to 60 mph within just a few seconds, others need way longer. But it doesn't end here, cuz after the car speeds up to that speed, the question is for how long it can maintain it, and how soon it'll run out of gas.
So, the car that needs longer to speed up isn't necessarily the inferior car, cuz it might be able to run for way longer or run more efficiently, saving gas.
I am sure that there are people who can, from one day to the other, start to practice for hours without a problem. But in general, you need to work up to it, by starting with, let's say, an hour a day.
Otherwise, it'll be a frustrating and exhausting experience. There's no reason to burn yourself out. If you force yourself to sit down to practice for like 8 hours for the first time, it's pretty much a waste of time. If you are not used to a long practicing-session like that, it will be a pain. You'll feel bored, you won't really be able to focus, and maybe you won't find the motivation to pick up your axe the next day. As I said before, set yourself small, realistic goals.
So anyway, you decide to sit down for one or two hours to practice. Now, are you sure you'll be able to practice without any distractions?
It's especially difficult to do so if you have a wife and children, or live together with other people. Because they might interrupt you. And I, for one, have problems telling the people around me "Guys, leave me alone, will ya?" ( OK, you COULD put that into nicer words but I guess you get the idea )
But let's say you have two hours and you tell everyone around you before you start that you'll be busy for that amount of time. So basically, they'll leave you alone.
What about the phone? Got one? Oops, a cell phone too?
Now, my best advice would be to unplug them or turn them off while you practice. I know that that is difficult, because you don't wanna miss people calling you, it might be important. But believe me, a phone call can really mess up your practicing. Your concentration is interrupted, you'll most likely talk for a while, and afterwards it is tough to get going again.
When I practice, I usually turn off the cell phone, and I switch my regular phone to a mode where it doesn't ring, but the integrated answering machine will pick up the call silently and take a message. It's not my favorite thing to do, but it's necessary IMHO.
My advice would be: if you don't wanna turn off the phone, and you get distracted by a call, and you lose, let's say, 15 minutes (make that 45 min. if it's your girlfriend calling… just kidding!)… you should try to get back that time at the end of your session. Put in an extra 15 minutes…
What about other distractions? Well, I do have a certain room where I always practice (if I am not "noodling", which is a different thing! "Noodling" means, playing the guitar but not really practicing with full concentration. I often do that when I am watching TV or something... doing hammer on- and pull off exercises which I do not need 100% concentration for). In that room, I also teach. There aren't many distractions there. It's my "exercise zone", I feel comfortable there and it's meant to be used for practicing.
There's a desk, and left and right of it are some cabinets with instructional books and my "folders" (more on that later). On the desk, there's a sequencer, which I can use to create backing tracks (quite specific ones… I can program certain chord progressions, drum-beats etc. So I can make custom-jam tracks based on what I am working on). There's the amp, a tuner, my guitar.
On the walls, I have certain quotes by some of my favorite players, plus pics of them. I find it motivating sometimes to look at those pics. That's my practicing environment, and I feel comfortable there. No distractions, just a regular place to go and practice.