We’ve all been there. We sit down to practice… and it doesn’t work. Our brain can’t think properly, our fingers are like spaghetti and the music is not sounding like music. There is nothing more frustrating than a bad practice session.
Ideally, we would like all our practice sessions to go nice and smoothly, and to consistently make a bit of progress, every time we sit down to practice guitar.
Unfortunately… our body sometimes has other ideas. As I am sure you know, not all practice sessions are equal, and sometimes we have off days.
Here are 5 ways to deal with a practice session that doesn’t go well:
1. Create a Ritual
As humans, rituals, habits, routines; or whatever you want to call them, are very powerful forces in our lives. Our lives are dominated by routines and rituals… so why not use them to our advantage?
I have a set time to practice each day, and before I sit down, I make a cup of tea for myself. It sounds simple… almost silly… but that ritual of making a cup of tea lets me focus my mind.
I quickly stop thinking about everything else that is going on, and I can set my mind to the task ahead – working through a great practice session on my guitar.
This mental clearing before practice is invaluable, and helps create a more consistent practice session for me.
2. Practice At The Level You Can Play
That might seem obvious, right? But how often have we said something along the lines of:
“But I should be able to play this at XYZ speed”
… and then felt incredibly demotivated afterwards?
We can only ever do… what we can do.
Just because we played at 98bpm yesterday, doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going to play at 98bpm today. When you practice, work out whatever your max speed is… for this day, and work to that.
Don’t worry about yesterday. Just focus on what you can do today.
3. Do Something Fun
Doing something.. is better than doing nothing.
Some days… we just are not feeling it. Or it’s just not working.
Do something a bit different for your practice.
Sometimes when I goto the gym, I feel fed up with my routine. I might change a few exercises that day, change the reps and go for volume over weight, or maybe a combination.
You can do something similar with the guitar. Some days, we just do not want to sit for a 90 minute routine with a metronome.
So maybe throw on a backing track and have some fun. Write a new riff. Play around with some theory ideas you learned.
But do something.
4. Sleep On It
I always find, that when I have a particularly brutal practice day, and I stick to the practice (maybe at a slower speed), the following day, I have a great practice session.
You brain does some crazy stuff when you are asleep.
And sometimes that is what our brain needs – a good sleep.
One practice session does not define you or your ability. One of the most important things when practicing, is that you are consistent with your practice.
Once you are consistent, you will find that, with good sleep, you improve day by day.
5. Walk Away
If I am getting particularly stuck with a certain exercise on my guitar, sometimes I will pause my practice time and take a short walk.
Sometimes just to the kitchen. Sometimes I’ll walk in the garden for a minute or two.
Sitting with your guitar and getting increasingly frustrated doesn’t achieve anything. If anything, it is detrimental to your progress as a guitar player.
Get up, take a minute or two to walk and calm your mind.
Take some deep breaths.
Then, when you’re ready, go back, sit down, relax, and try again.
Every time I do this, my practice session takes a turn for the better.