By Steve Booke
A structured practice schedule is important to the musical development of every acoustic guitar student. In a way, it's THE most important thing. Lessons should inform students what to practice. However, as the student continues, all they have to practice can become overwhelming.
Not knowing what to practice, many acoustic guitar students will focus too much on one thing and not nearly enough on others. Also, there is a natural tendency to work on stuff that you can do easily and avoid the things that are not sounding so great.
I had a very disciplined practice regimen when I first started playing. This was good and bad at the same time. Having the same structure every single day did not leave room for different approaches to certain things, which may have helped in my progress.
I give my students a typical outline for practicing which includes the following:
1: Warm up exercises
4: Theory Study
6: Songs that are currently being worked on
These will of course vary with the student and skill/experience level, but this is basically the order I like to go in to ramp up physically and mentally. Like any recipe though, the proportion of the ingredients are essential for good results. These proportions should be customized based on the goals of the student. If they are focused on becoming a lead guitar player, then the regimen can lean more towards technique, scales, and theory, for example.
I typically will have my students start with 10 minutes of warmups, 10 minutes for technique, 10 minutes for scales, 20 minutes for songs, and 10 minutes of reading. If the student does not have an hour to devote to practicing, these numbers can be cut in half proportionally. If they only have 15 minutes a night for example, I ask them to do warmups for 5 and the song of the week for the other 10.
It's important to stress to your acoustic students that some days they will sound better than others and not to be discouraged and put off practicing.
Consistency is the best way to get yourself out of any rut. Over time, they will see that the bad playing days will become less and less the more they practice!