5 Practice Tips For The Holidays
It always seems like time off means time away from your guitar. The holidays can provide a healthy break from the pursuit of your guitar ambitions. But, if you want to keep rockin’ while staying festive, then we have some choice ways to keep up your Yuletide practice from going as dry as the turkey!
1. Practice Smart
First, accept that there is going to be little time for any serious woodshedding over the festive period; there are lots of demands on our time, and we should actually welcome the change of pace. So, sneaking off for a usual marathon practise session might not be on the cards, but that doesn’t mean you have to put your fingers into hibernation!
The chances are you will grabbing bite sized practise sessions, no doubt, under the guise of basting the turkey or wrapping presents! So work smart:
Got 5 minutes? Focus your time on keeping those fingers moving (like going for a run!). Anything which doesn’t allow those digits to stop is a good use of this little practice window! This could be running through a familiar song with the backing track twice, a set 5 minute workout/exercise regime, or putting on a 5 minute backing track and improvising. The key here is not to noodle; have a beat, backing or metronome going to keep you playing more intensively!
Got 10 or 15 minutes? Used right, this can be a solid practice session. As already mentioned, there’s no time for noodling, so your choice of what to practice needs to be directed at (you guessed it) getting the maximum finger mileage out of this short chunk of time. The difference here is variety - aim for 2-3 things with which you can give your undivided attention for a few minutes or so each. You could loop a scale to a backing track for 2 minutes, hit up another song, learn a lick, do some ear training. You’d be surprised how much you can fit into 10 minutes when you practise with intent!
2. Be Prepared
Whether you were a good Boy Scout or not, the motto still holds true. If time is going to be an issue when you have the fleeting opportunity to grab your axe, then spending that time looking for a lesson, setting up that backing track, or even digging out your guitar and tuning it up can eat into that practice window.
Start by lining up what you want to practice, make a list (and check it twice!) of all the things you want to play: If you are including Licklibrary lessons/courses, you can use the Watchlist and Playlist functions within the site to set these up so they are only a single click away. Make sure, whatever you are going to be using during your practice is ready to go - this means your guitar is on its stand (away from any hot or cold spots to avoid spending too much time tuning). Playing unplugged is also a good way to avoid detection, if you have gone AWOL from any Christmas obligations! Have your laptop or device to hand, along with your metronome, picks, capo etc.
Change your strings before the holidays too, and stretch them in! Nothing brings a sudden end to a guitar interlude than broken string!
3. Put The Fun First
You’ve worked hard this year, and the chances are, you have placed your attention on getting better; Christmas is a time to wind down and take it easy, so treat this as a free pass to have some fun. This is a great opportunity to play and practice things for nothing more than the joy of playing them.
Guilty pleasures - Come on, you know there’s that one pop song you can’t stop humming! Maybe there is that song from your teenage years which you never played? It’s only got 3 chords, but who cares?! So you’re a serious player, indulge in that cheesy rock classic you secretly love (we won’t tell anyone!)
Pick up your acoustic - maybe you want to leave the serious stuff alone for a week; forget that song you’ve been slaving over or that technique that has been occupying your time. Learn a simple song or two - strum out a sing-along hit. The extra bonus is, this opens up the chance to bring out your guitar for a bit of busking in front of the family - getting your practice time in, without having to hide in the spare room to do it! Your family will generally welcome a rendition of some pop classics; melting your mother in law’s face with a display of some prime sweep picked 16th note triplet arpeggios at 120bpm might not have the same reception!
4. Do Something New
Nothing gives you that short dopamine hit like the feeling you have progressed or taken another step forward on your guitar journey. Feeling like you have truly achieved something during your practice session is a sure fire way to help you relax about your guitar playing and prevent obsessing over practice during the holidays. A tried and tested way to replicate this in only a few minutes is to learn and achieve something new!
Line up a few new things to learn over the holidays - make these short and achievable - a single lick/riff, rather than a whole solo or song, a new chord or inversions of a chord you already know, maybe a lick in a new style - go jazz or country, learn the first octave of a new scale and try it to a backing track.
5. Practice In Your Head!
No, this isn’t like hearing voices and is a perfectly sane way to get some guitar practice in when you can’t reach for your guitar! Once you have played anything on the guitar enough times for it to become familiar, then the chances are you can picture it on the fretboard. Try this - close your eyes and walk through any familiar lick, song or sequence; picture the fingering exactly, your pick strokes, tap your foot and imagine playing this in time - visualising the chord changes etc hitting the right beat. When it comes to playing this on your guitar later, you will actually find that you have made some surprising progress, all without physically playing!
For an extra boost - try to really hear what you are playing - not just the pitch of the notes but the dynamics, pick attack and tone etc.
Now, you might look strange making wah wah face during Christmas dinner or whilst spending quality time with the family, so perhaps reserve this practice hack for more opportune moments - if you are watching that same Christmas movie for the 20h time, then maybe this is a prime occasion to zone out and run an internal practice session. Guitar faces are a give away, so keep these to a minimum!
And that rounds up our tips for keeping your fingers in shape and preventing your guitar getting lonely over between now and the New Year. For some quick 5 minute practice hits, ideas on new things to tackle and some bite sized fun riffs you can learn quicker than it takes to make a turkey sandwich; check out the following: