“Oh, so many things I want to practice, such little time to do them.” We all get like this some times. Here’s my suggestion for getting the most out of your practice time. Whatever amount of time you have to practice, divide it into three parts.
Segment one will be “warm-up”. Warm up with some technique work. This is a good time to make sure your hands and arms are stretched out properly. Run through some familiar scales. Play with a metronome. Metronome time alone can take many hours if you are thorough and serious about being a stronger musician. Play through some of your favorite rhythm patterns too. Use varying rhythm patterns while playing scales, chords, arpeggios, triad inversions and anything else you can think of.
The next segment will be “growth”. Growth usually consists of non-musical work. Things like learning new scales and chords would fit into this category. Going over new theory ideas, learning new rhythms or anything else new, these are all things that fit into the growth segment. Now the more you get solid with your practice routine, I’m sure you can see how using a metronome, you can cross the first two segments. When you cross over into the second segment, step up the challenge level and play unfamiliar scales or patterns. Increase the tempo or try bumping up your subdivisions. For example if you are playing eighth notes at 80 bpm, work on triplets or sixteenths at the same tempo.
The last segment is the “Fun/Jam” segment. That’s when you just have fun and play songs that you like, or put on a Jam-along CD and wail some pentatonic licks over it. You can even change it to a “creative” segment. This is where you would be exploring songwriting ideas, creating melodies, or working on your improvisational skills. Make music!
Now we are all at different levels and all have different goals. So feel free to be a little flexible with this plan. Lets say that you have an hour to practice. You can divide that hour into three 20-minute segments or two 15-minute segments and the third segment being 30 minutes. Maybe you really want to sharpen up your rhythm playing or your pentatonic scales for an upcoming gig, audition or rehearsal. You can make your “growth” segment a little longer and condense the other segments.
Also, make sure your goals are clear to you so that you know how to best customize the segments to fit your needs. Have fun with it!