“Learning Guitar -Lifestyle Issues”

To get value from your guitar lessons you have to set aside time to practice between lessons. Many students ask -how much time? My response is it depends where it fits into your lifestyle, but a short period everyday is likely to yield better results than a long evening once a week.

I ask parents not to make their children’s practice a heavy chore, but,if they are to improve, some time -even a few minutes -is needed most days. I understand there are other priorities to fit in such as homework and other activities, but try to ensure the guitar practice doesn’t get lost amidst everything else in the child’s often hectic and packed lifestyle.

The issue of practice and lifestyle applies equally to adults. The biggest problem many working adults have is fitting time for the guitar into their own schedules. Students who stop taking lessons really do want to learn , but work and other priorities become so engulfing -they don’t practice and when improvement is slower than expected they become frustrated.

This is ironic because many tell me they want to learn an instrument to take them away from the stress they feel in their job. The advice I offer(and this does work)) is to make appointments with yourself and put practice time in the diary. Treat this appointment like any other work or life commitment. Keep the appointment with yourself short and you’ll find a few minutes focussed effort on most days will bring about gradual improvement.

The amount of time you can commit to practice varies from person to person. Someone who has retired will find it easier to schedule blocks of time than someone in a full time job. The time you can devote or are prepared to devote will depend upon where you see your playing fitting into your lifestyle and where the priorities sit at any one time.

I originally took up guitar to have a diversion from my work; there were periods when I had enough time available for considerable practice, but sometimes it became difficult to follow a practice regime which lasted more than a few minutes. Eventually I realised music was more important to me than the work I was doing, so in the end I studied and practised for examinations and made a late career change.

Another lifestyle factor to consider is not the quantity of practice you can do but the quality of practice in each session. Some years ago I made the mistake of commiting to a fairly advanced grade examination at a time I was working long hours and doing a considerable amount of travelling.

When I arrived home in an evening I dutifully committed time ;to practice for the examination, but the usual magic didn’t happen. In fact I seemed to be getting worse, I think my teacher had reservations about my exam entry, but I have a stubborn streak and kept on. My pieces were not at the standard I wanted them to be, but I convinced myself that I was good enough to pass if all went smoothly on the exam day. It didn’t go smoothly -I failed -only by a whisker but it was a blow to my confidence.

The problem wasn’t the exam or my abilty, it was simply that the quality of my practice had been poor. I was tired and instead of enjoying it as a release from the day – it became another stressful burden. With hindsight I should have put the exam back a few months and been more realistic about the quality of my practice.

In the long term it proved a valuable experience and I think it helped me to become a better teacher coach and mentor to different students. But at the time the failure hurt.

So if you are thinking about taking lessons ask yourself what time you can you realistically give to quality practice. You may love the idea of learning to play but think where it fits into your own , or perhaps your children’s overall lifestyle before you commit to taking lessons.


About jghzap

I teach classical guitar. I perform acoustic music, I compose music and songs and live on the coast.
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