Let’s face it: you’re not going to become a great guitarist without putting in the hours in the practice room. But if you really want to get the most out of the time you spend playing at home, and are struggling to stay focused, use our handy guide to help you create the ultimate practice space…
Learning guitar is about inspiration. After all, why did you pick up the instrument in the first place? Most likely it was because someone, or something, inspired you. It could have been a favourite band or record, a revered older brother or sister, or even a music teacher you looked up to and respected.
Or, it could’ve just been the fact that guitars are cool as hell.
Whatever the reason, you need that motivation to carry on, to push through the pain barrier of strumming your first clean barre chord or to navigate the fingerings of that beginner’s pentatonic scale. Once you’ve got those nailed, you’ll hopefully move on to the next challenges, and then the next, on your individual journey to becoming a true guitar master. And you’ll be far more successful the whole time if you have a great practice space to do it in.
So, what makes a great practice space? It comes down to inspiration again. If you’ve got a place at home where you just can’t resist going to play, you’re half way there. Now let’s take a look at what that space should have if it’s to keep you coming back for more punishment every day…
A nice room – or corner
If you’ve got the luxury of a whole room to devote to all things guitar, then that’s fantastic. You’ll be able to personalise the place as much as you like, spend as much time as you like in there, and have the huge advantage of being able to shut the door to the outside world and focus exclusively on you and your axe! That’s the battle halfway won.
For most of us, though, the reality is a practice space within a room that’s probably focused on something other than the noble quest for musical improvement. You’re probably in the spare bedroom for half an hour every Wednesday night, and then in the living room for an hour or so on a Saturday morning. But if this is the case, don’t despair: it’s what you do with the space – and your time – that counts.
If you can, try and negotiate a permanent space that you can call your practice home. Make it yours. If it’s the corner of the laundry room, then turn it into The Laundry Room Corner Of Rock! Keep your guitar and amp setup in there if you can, and make them a prominent feature – that way, every time you pass you’ll want to go and have a play.
If possible, your space should be in a place that naturally inspires you. You might want to be near a window and natural light, or you might want to be in a darkened, stuffy cellar – whatever works for you.
You might even be able to decorate the space to stimulate learning. Posters of your guitar heroes, scale charts, even a wall painted in your favourite colour: these are things that will make you feel at home, and consequently more comfortable, while practicing. Like having your guitar in view, they’ll draw you back to your space time and time again.
All the small things
What you’ll also want to have to hand are the little bits and pieces that will make your practice as pain-free as possible – aside from the utter frustrations of the playing itself, at least.
Make sure you’ve got an adequate supply of accessories within reach. We’re talking spare strings, picks, slides, capos, leads – whatever you might find yourself needing on the fly while you’re practicing.
If you’re learning through sheet music or a tab book (yes, very 20th century methods, we know!) a music stand is a must-have. Similarly, if you want to write anything down, have some paper and pens ready. If you’re feeling creative, they’ll be perfect when inspiration strikes.
Sounds simple, this one, but a metronome is essential for any guitarist who wants to play in time. Get one in if you don’t want to sound like a fool when you start playing with others!
As a continuation of the foolishness theme, another particularly handy piece of kit that will help aid your practice sessions is a recording device. Listening back to your own playing may not always be fun, but it’ll certainly show you where you need to improve.
Naturally, you could use your computer or smartphone for much of the above, but they come with their own pitfalls…
Temptations and clutter
These days, we’ve all got phones, tablets, computers and games consoles in front of us 24/7. If you want to be able to concentrate on your practice, do your utmost to get these temptations out of the room. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favour, and even if it might be more fun to see what Uncle Tom’s up to on Facebook right now, it won’t be more rewarding. Unless he’s a guitar teacher, of course.
Keeping your practice space clean and orderly doesn’t end with your electronic media, either. If there’s magazines, books, TVs, or even other people cluttering up your space, your mind will not be on the task at hand. We’re not advocating you sit and play in a bare room, but only you know the things that will take your mind off your practice. Do yourself a favour and get them out of the way!
Don’t forget the gear
It goes without saying that you’ll be needing your guitar gear with you for practice. In fact, we’ll probably get round to devoting a whole blog post to the best kit for learning with – but today it’s about finding the right equipment for your space.
Your favourite axe is a given, but do you really need that bone-shaking 100-watt tube amp for playing at home? You know you don’t – it’ll scare the hell out of the neighbours and the cat, and if you do try and get the volume levels manageable, your tone is going to suffer. And if there’s anything that we guitarists can’t stand, it’s sounding awful.
That considered, a smaller modelling amp – or a bigger one with a Power Soak function – is probably going to be the most suitable option here. You could also play through headphones, or just go purely acoustic, although that will work best on a dedicated acoustic instrument, rather than an unplugged electric.
If you can tick off all of the above, you’re well on your way. If you can’t, then why not try a few of these tips out? We’re not saying they’re an extensive list, or that they will work for everybody, but we’ve certainly tried them all out at various times when inspiration levels have been low. Some of them have even been effective!
The bottom line is this: only through practice will you get better at playing guitar. If you make yourself a practice space that’s fun, inspiring and tailored to your tastes – and that at the same time is free of the daily clutter that will put you off playing – you’re giving yourself a huge advantage. You’ll actually want to spend more time learning, and you’ll enjoy that learning process more. The result? You’ll be in the best position possible to improve your playing no end. The rest is in your hands.
Oh, and if you’ve got any other tips for helping us fellow players create the ultimate guitar practice space, do share! We’d love to know how we can make things better…
First published: June 27 2014. Most recent update: October 16 2015.