If desire is the most important part of learning guitar (without it you wouldn’t have even started), then concentration is the most important part of practicing guitar.
I often say to people that 20 minutes of focused practice can beat, hands down, 2 hours of ‘normal’ practice, or just goofing about.
Many people are discouraged when they are told how much time they must put into practice. The truth is, you don’t have to practice all the time to be a good guitarist.
(I’m not saying you shouldn’t have time to goof off and play around. But if you want to improve quickly, you must keep playing guitar and practicing guitar separate.)
Let me tell you now…
It isn’t how much time you put into practice, it’s the quality of the practice that matters.
When I play guitar, I play to have fun, I play to perform for people, and I play for the fun of playing! That’s why I started learning guitar in the first place.
But when I practice guitar, I focus and concentrate on what I’m trying to achieve, and I work on the goals that I want to complete.
You see, if you completely focus on one thing you are more likely to do it well.
This may sound too simple to some. Some of you may be thinking “this is great, I only need to practice 20 minutes a day and ill improve more than I would if I practicing 2 hours a day”.
Well that’s not exactly true.
Its how focused your practice is that counts, not how long you practice. Can you really focus for 2 hours?
Let me give you this small example to illustrate my point.
Picture a red triangle inside a black box.
Close your eyes, and keep that image in your mind for 5 seconds without letting a single thing distract you no other thought must enter your mind for that 5 seconds…
How well did you do? Be honest with yourself.
This isn’t an easy thing to do. Most people find this difficult at first. Its difficult to keep a focused mind like this.
I hope this example has shown you that it’s not that easy to keep focused attention & concentration for long periods of time.
But still, you must always remember that its quality and not quantity of practice that makes the difference between a great player and an average player.
This is a perfect time to tell you that you shouldn’t be spending hours and hours ‘practicing’, because you simply can’t focus for that amount of time.
If you are practicing for a solid 2 hours or more you are probably not helping your development as a guitarist that much.
A much better way of using this time is to practice in bursts.
A good idea would be to practice in bursts of 20 minutes or so. You can vary it depending on what you feel like doing, but try not to practice for long periods of time in one go. It’s not helping as much as you think it might be.
Also, it’s important to take breaks from what you’re practicing. You can do something else for awhile, go for a walk, watch TV, or maybe just play around and have fun with your guitar and loosen up a bit before you start focusing on practice again.
It is important for you to have a definition in your own mind of ‘practicing guitar’ and ‘playing guitar’.
This will keep you more focused and allow you to reach your goals as a guitarist much easier.
An exercise for you to try to help you further develop concentration is to sit silently and count slowly from one to ten in your mind.
If anything should interrupt your counting, whether it is a noise, a stray thought, or the awareness of your own breathing, you must start over from one.
Again, it’s unlikely you will be able to achieve this straight-away. It’s a hard thing to do. However how out and ‘Zen’ this exercise may seem, it will re-focus your mind on the task in hand, and it’ll help you learn faster if you can stay focused on what you’re practicing.
You should try this exercise whenever you start to feel like you’re loosing your focus.