Learning the guitar can be as random as we want it to be, and for most people, mapping out a year long practice regiment isn't the preferred method, and perhaps it shouldn't be. What I'm referring to isn't so much planning your every move, but setting long term goals for yourself over the course of a year.
No one can plan every detail of their practice sessions and resulting improvement. However we can set goals for ourselves and figure out what we want to have accomplished by a certain period of time.
Knowing where you want to be by the end of the year or even every few months can give you a focus that might not have been there otherwise. If you can take the year in several two or three month chunks, you can hone in on a few aspects of your playing and significantly improve on them by the end of the year.
Knowing the goals to set is probably the hardest part, so we'll talk about that first, then move into how we "plan" in such a way that will give us the best chance of reaching those goals.
Setting the Right Guitar GoalsDepending on where you're at as a guitarist, your goals will definitely vary. For starters, I would encourage any player to make a list.
On one side, write down the topics and concepts you believe you should accomplish. For example: alternate picking, sweep picking, 7th note chords and more of the less "fun" technical aspects that guitarists need to develop.
On the other side, write down the things that you just want to be able to do. Maybe you want to be able to play a certain song, or a Brad Paisley solo. Jot these things down as well and then do some comparison between the two lists.
Matching Up Your GoalsOnce you have these two lists filled, perhaps with eight to ten concepts in each category put them side by side. Keep in mind that the goals can be to simply improve upon something you already know.
What we want to do now is give the "fun" side, priority. The reason it wins out is because the things you want to learn are more critical to developing your style and creative potential. The technical concepts are just tools you need to learn how to use.
Once you've done that, look over your technical list of goals and see if you can find some concepts and techniques that might benefit you and help give you a better shot at mastering Summer Song. Satriani does a lot of arpeggios and sweep picking, so if those are on your list those would be concepts to highlight as well and work on.
Putting it All TogetherOnce you have one thing you want to learn, pick at least three and no more than five technical topics to learn along with it, that will help you play the song better. Your list might look something like the following:
I want to learn...
Summer Song by Joe Satriani
I need to learn...
Blues Variation Modes
Speed in Pentatonic Scales
Give yourself three months to accomplish this task, breaking up your practice sessions by working on improving these three aspects of your playing and then applying that improvement to learn Summer Song.
At the end of three months, make a new list and go again. By the time a year is up, you'll have significantly improved 12 different aspects of your playing ability, and perhaps even learning some great songs in the process.
By the time you're a five or six year guitar veteran. You'll have a lot of concepts under your belt.
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