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How To Set Goals For Yourself

Article Written By Jason Wilford 

One of the toughest things many guitarists encounter during their practice regimen is figuring out what to practice and how. Sometimes you may find yourself with an hour or so available to work on your guitar playing, but end up just playing things you are already good at without any focus. In other words, you spend the time ‘playing’ the guitar, rather than ‘practicing’. I know from experience that when I don’t have a specific list of what to work on, I just end up just playing what comes easy to me during my designated practice time. 

To avoid aimless wandering and to efficiently manage your practice time in the best way possible, the first thing that needs to be established is what your goals are. From this point, you can break it down into smaller and smaller pieces so that you know specifically what to work on. You can think of your goals as the ‘big picture’ which can be broken down into many different little sections. Without breaking each goal down, it’s very hard to pinpoint what you should be working on. For example, if your goal is to play in a band one day, how do you practice that? 

In this circumstance, the first question you need to ask yourself is what type of music you want to be playing. Metal, Rock, Blues, Pop, or something else? Once you narrow down the style of music, you can make a list of things that apply to that genre and will break the goal down further. 

I will use the goal of playing in a Blues band as my example. This list is going to be pretty bare-bones, and many more things could be added, but I’ll keep it small and simple so that this makes sense. 

General skills to work on to play the Blues efficiently:  

- Ability to play through a 12-bar blues in as many keys as possible - Improvising over blues progressions - Learning songs from other blues artists 

Each of these can be broken down even further  

Play through a 12-bar blues in as many keys as possible - Learning dominant 7 chords - Learning inversions and extensions of dominant 7 chords - Learning substitutions to spice up the 12-bar progression Improvising over blues progressions - Minor pentatonic scales - Chord tone soloing - Working on phrasing devices such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, vibrato, bends, etc 

Learning songs from other artists - This includes learning the chord shapes, melodies, and solos - Learn songs from artists such as Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan etc. - Ability to play these songs in a band setting. 

As you can see, this was just a general example of how you can break your goals down into smaller pieces so that your practice time is more focused. Depending what you would like to do as a guitarist, these goals will vary in many ways. Each section that was broken down in the example above can be broken down even further. For an example of that, check out this mindmap here: Goal Setting Example 

You will find that once you break down your goals into manageable practice items, your focus will be much clearer, and you will reach your goals much faster that if you didn’t. I highly recommend spending as much time as you can to pinpoint what you really should be working on – even if it means missing out on 2 hours of practice time! You will thank yourself when you begin to notice clear results. Just remember: to get the results that you want, you do need to practice all things on your list (especially the items that are the hardest for you!) 

About the Author:

Jason Wilford is a guitar player and teacher, offering Guitar Lessons in Oakville (Ontario, Canada).

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