Whether you’ve just started playing guitar or you’ve been at it for years, you probably want to get the most out of each practice session. The power of preparation can’t be overestimated! Start setting the stage for success by creating a physical space that supports your commitment.
The great thing about the guitar is that you can take it with you wherever you go. All you need is a place to sit comfortably while holding your guitar correctly. But this advantage can become a liability if it enables you to avoid creating the optimal space for daily practice. A little time and planning can go a long way toward crafting an environment that enables satisfying and successful learning and playing.
You don’t need much room for your practice, but you do need a designated area where you feel comfortable. Your space should be private, so you’ll be able to concentrate without any concern for how you might sound to someone else. Practice is a whole different thing than performing. You need to feel free to repeat passages ad nauseum and make mistakes boldly!
If you share a living space with someone else, you may need to collaborate on ways to keep your sounds to yourself. If you’re playing a classical guitar (nylon string), you’ll probably do fine by being in a separate room with the door closed. But you’ll need an extra layer of sound protection if you’re playing a larger guitar with steel strings, or if you play an electric guitar through an amplifier.
If your housemate is amenable to listening to music, books, or podcasts through headphones when they’re home during your practice time, your problems are solved! But that’s not always necessary if you typically play using amplification because you can use your own headphones! I use the Fender Mustang headphone amp and find it really satisfying for most sessions. When I want to sing or play backing tracks through my amplifier, though, I still appreciate my husband using his headphones.
Furnish your space with an armless chair or stool that enables you to hold the guitar correctly and without tension. I use an armless office chair, which I can set at a height that allows me to have my feet flat on the floor and enables me to swivel between metronome, music stand, recording devices, and, in my case, students.
Increase your desire to practice and enhance your overall experience by making your practice space pleasant. Furnish it with fresh flowers or plants, pleasing or inspiring artwork, and aromas that contribute to calmness, energy, and focus.
You’ll want to be able to easily reach a capo, a metronome, picks, extra strings, instructional books, paper, pencil, your guitar journal, and the recording device of your choice. You’ll also need a device to use for listening to or watching audio files or videos of the songs you’re working on. If you use your phone to access a metronome app or watch YouTube videos, avoid getting distracted by texts or emails. Make a commitment to stay focused during your precious practice time!
Once you’ve shut out the physical world, you’ll still need to corral your thoughts. Make a point of clearing your mind when you enter the practice room and perform a repeat clearing after any mentally intense periods. Pause, shake out your hands, take a deep breath, and release all thoughts. Sit in this empty state for as little as 10 seconds or up to five minutes. When you start again you may be surprised by how relaxed and productive you are!
Creating an optimal emotional state for practice can be tricky. Who knows what emotions you’ll experience on any given day? Fortunately, you don’t need to anticipate or control your emotions, because as you engage with your guitar, they will almost certainly shift.
Keeping this in mind can help you avoid the trap of avoiding your guitar until you feel like practicing. Truthfully, the best time to practice your guitar is often when you feel like it the least. After a few times of stepping into practice when your heart’s not in it, you’ll probably begin to look forward to practice as a way to balance or soothe a challenging or unpleasant emotional state.
Further read, CAN THERE EVER BE ENOUGH TIME FOR WHAT YOU WANT?
What furnishings or accessories do you find inspiring in your practice area? Can you be sufficiently assertive in claiming privacy in your guitar time? What songs tend to shift your mood the most?