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Finding Balance in Practicing

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Dave T
Reputable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 239
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I started out last March playing guitar using the “Complete Guitarist” book 1 by Russ Shipton. I was following it faithfully and making decent progress. After a couple of months I had gained enough confidence to venture into downloading TAB, and exercises or songs from Guitar Noise and other internet resources. Now I have got to the point that I have a binder of 40 or so songs and pages of exercises, none of which I have mastered.

Last week I realized I was not getting anywhere fast and went back to the book and decided I would stick with it starting at page 1 again and not move on until I had mastered each song. I have read much of the sage advice here and it seems the consensus is to move slowly, learn complete songs properly, then move on to harder material. I do tend to have trouble finding balance, so I think my new “only the book” approach might be too rigid. After all, I am 47 and only want to learn the guitar as a hobby and a means of entertaining myself and a few others.

So, here are my thoughts on how to divvy up my practice time:

75% the “book”
25% freestyle, ie: playing other songs, working on chord progressions and strumming, etc.

Anyone else stuck in this quandary? Any advice from the old guard?

New Member
Joined: 1 second ago
Posts: 0

Dave I have only been playing for 2 months so take my advice with a grain of salt.....

You need to practice what motivates to to stick to it. For me the songs in some of those beginners books just don't do it for me. So I got tab for songs I like and started with that...Yes many are WAY too advanced and are in the back of my binder for later. Then I fit in the technique stuff in around that...

So for instance, my latest song to learn is Eight Days A Week by the Beatles. I knew my strumming needed work. That is why I picked this song. I have a few other songs like the simplified version of Hotel California (in the Easy Song Database) that I am also using. This is just so I can use different strumming patterns and not just practice the same pattern over and over. I need variety to motivate me

The answer really lies within you. I tried playing 15 years ago but I just couldn't stick to at 38 years old (soon to be 39 next week!) and I can't see myself ever putting the guitar down! Some people like practicing the scales and drills...that motivates them I guess because they feel like they are have to find what works best for you. If following that book works and you enjoy it then stick to it...but keep in mind eventually that book is going to end and you will need a plan to go to.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 8184

I've been playing just over a month now and I downloaded tabs right off the tab pretty much. So far, I can play one song, albeit slower than the song goes but I can play it.

I divide up my practice time like so:

90% freestyle, learning songs I know
10% chord changes.

The chord changes are only a recent thing for me, I started learning songs before I even knew about them. I guess its just a matter of finding what works for you.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 6348

I spent most of my forty years of guitar playing just playing. I sure learned alot.

since I started lap steel and pedal steel recently, I began playing in open tunings.
I wanted to learn where the familiar notes were from my standard tuning playing. so I started mapping the fret board.
in short, I am getting into theory.

Im a better player for it too.

still, all those years of playing hasnt really taken anything away from me.
Im satisfied.

I took lessons as a teenager. Ive learned how to read music.
Ive learned alot from jamming with other players.

you want to learn to satisfy yourself and entertain friends.
Id say you are a casual player. that's fine.

go back through your lessons. as you've experienced more you will look at those lessons differently; hopefully, taking more away from them than the first orlast time.

I go back and review stuff all the time.

and I constantly challenge myself to new as well.

putting on a CD and playing with it is a riot.

sticking with something until you got it cold is good.
but dont kill your enjoyment for the instrument.

but dont listen to Homer Simpson. didnt he say once, 'if it's too hard, it's not worth learning".

Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 88

I agree with everyone boils down to what works for you and keeps you playing. I've only been playing for a month, but right now I am satisfied attempting to master open chord changes. My teacher sets out some progressions and gives me a bpm on the metronome and tells me to practice the changes. Been doing this for two weeks, about an hour a night and I am seeing some progress. Next week we dive into a song....haven't decided what, but for now the chord changes are enough. I am being slightly methodical though because while I want to enjoy playing I want to be good at it works for me.


"Practice until you get a guitar welt on your chest...if it makes you
feel good, don't stop until you see the blood from your fingers.
Then you'll know you're on to something!"
- Ted Nugent