Putting together an appropriate practice space can help speed up your progress. Practice should be any enjoyable, stress-free experience so building the right environment to do it in can be a means to that end. These are some guidelines I have come up with over the years for my students and things I have done to enhance my practice experience.
In my experience you can learn more in just 15 minutes of focused practice then you can an hour of working with things in the background or interruptions to ruin your focus. This is the whole reason for putting together a space to practice in.
First you need to find a spot where you won’t be interrupted or distracted by all sorts of things in the background. There’s nothing for frustrating for me than trying to get something done when there are ten other things demanding my attention. It’s gotten to be such an annoyance to me that I won’t even start anything if I there is a chance I will be interrupted. I need somewhere where there are no TV cartoons in the background, kid squealing, dogs barking and wife asking to do random things when I’m right on the verge of mastering an otherwise impossible lick. If you have these factors in your life then I’m sure your understanding me here. The best solution is to find a space in your home where you can be at peace and make it your practice space.
Next think about what kind of environment you relax and learn best in and make it that environment. You may be the type that likes things decorative. Maybe you are a neat freak. Maybe you like things to be decorated a bit with relaxing pictures on the wall. Maybe a couple lava lamps and tie-dye tapestries make you feel at home. Think about making it a place you would just want to be in even if you weren’t practicing because you’re going to spend a lot of time there.
My room has a key west atmosphere, very simple tropical yellow walls with modern art style musicians made of black metal wire on the walls. Keeping the room simple and mellow sets a great mood for me.
However, I recommend only keeping what you need to use in the practice space except for the stuff that sets the atmosphere. I’ve always worked best when I eliminate clutter that will distract me from what I’m trying to accomplish. In my space there is just equipment I am using. I even go so far as putting instruments that are not being used for my practice session away in the closet. I know it sounds a little neurotic, but it helps for me to have a completely clutter free workspace.
Now you need to equip you space with everything you’re going to need. You’re going to need your amp, instruments, computer, pedalboard, stool and music stand.
Next its time to set things up. Your stool is in the middle of everything. Try to keep everything within your reach from your practice stool. Your pedalboard should be directly in front of you and easily accessible by your feet. The computer goes to you right, easy to reach. I use a laptop on top of a drawer set that is exactly the height of my arm extended to it so that it is easy to type with just one hand (You’ll still be holding the guitar with your left hand.) The music stand goes in front of you to the left because that is the way your head will naturally go when holding the guitar. Put your amp wherever it sounds best. Remember you are going to need to hear the music coming from your computer and the amp at equal volumes to play along with the music.
A couple more tips to really streamline things:
If you are good with software here’s an even better way to get a good blend of yourself playing along with the music and keep things more clutter free. Download the trial version of Native Instruments Guitar Rig. It doesn’t expire and the presets are good enough for practice purposes. Hook up your guitar to the computer, its pretty simple if you follow the instructions. Play the tune you are trying to learn with media player. If you run both programs at once you can play along with the music through your computer speakers.
You can take things one step further by getting a pdf file or pulling up the tabs for the song you are working on online. Some good sites are Ultimate Guitar and Songsterr. Open it in a separate window and you’ve got everything right in front of you on your computer.
If you really like using software to aid learning, download a program that has looping and slow down capabilities. A couple of these are Sony Sound Forge and The Amazing Slow Downer. This way you can slow down the song, loop parts and practice along with it gradually until its up to speed. I use Sound Forge for making the instruction videos when you see me slowing parts down or looping them.
If you go ahead and do all of this I can just about guarantee that you will make faster progress and growth as a musician. Go have fun putting your practice space together.