Micro-Practicing: The Most Underrated Way to Practice Guitar

One of the most commonly heard adages that guitar teachers are fond of is this idea of practicing "an hour every day." I think this advice is the product of an un-enlightened tradition of music educators who's ideas aren't in line with the expectations of who they are teaching.

What is really interesting to me is this ratio:

The amount of time you practice : How interested you are in the instrument.

What I find truly crazy is how guitar teachers will berate a student for not practicing an hour when he or she is brand new. What's completely insane is that guitar teachers haven't figured out exactly what that student must do in that entire hour anyways!

What I mean is this: Just because you practice five hours a day doesn't mean you're actually getting anywhere. Don't believe me?

Lessons From Graduate School Guitar Programs

In graduate school, learning classical guitar at the Eastman School of Music, I practiced no less than 6 hours per day. I taught beginners who were just starting to learn the instrument and I told them this:

As long as you come to your lesson each week, you'll get an A. If you skip one, you get a B, and so on and so forth. Attendance based.

The idea was to experiment with how much time they really needed to practice guitar and get more interested in it. This was at Alfred University, about an hour or so south of Rochester NY. Most of the students thrived with this format. There were a few students who found out they weren’t at all interested in guitar, but after they dropped the class I'm sure they felt a lot better.

I noticed a pattern: The more a student got into guitar and made it his/her own, the more time they spent practicing. The more we are interested in guitar, the more we'll practice it.

To expect a brand new student, someone who has never played guitar before but is looking to try it out, how can we expect them to create an extra hour of time for practicing guitar when even they don't even know if they want to continue?

This is exactly the reason why micro-practicing at the very beginning of learning guitar is absolutely essential. If a person's interest in guitar slowly grows, the amount of time grows naturally and organically. Best of all, I never told them they had to put in outrageous amounts of time.

In other words, five minutes of practice each day is totally doable.

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