This is such a broad subject, but please keep in mind that this is my point of view and what I suggest. Please feel free to add any comments or other suggestions. I know that I have mentioned some of this in lessons, but I want to be more in depth.
The most important thing I would like everyone to know is that I follow my own advice. In essence, I am my own guinea pig. If I tell a student, "Try it like this." or "Try it like that.", It is because I want the student to explore all options. I too have listened to other instructors, students, colleagues in hopes to find something that works for me.
I would like to break this down into two parts; how to approach a good practice session and what I do during mine. Hopefully you will see the similarities. Let's start with you; the student.
I think the first thing is that you should want to practice. I have an absolute love for guitar! It moves me, takes away my pain, and is great meditation. (I will go into not wanting to practice later). I know that both kids and adults alike are busy with work, friends, school, chores, life...I always ask, 30 minutes of uninterrupted study 3-5 days a week. No T.V., no phone, no games, nothing. Just sit down and go through what your instructor has taught you. For kids, school should always come first! An education is very important.
Next, take is slow. Always start fresh and clean. What do I mean when I say this? Good practicing technique. If you have played something wrong for days, months or even years it will be hard to break the habit. If you take it slow, you will prevail.
For instance, I learned the solo for Rock you like a hurricane (the Scorpions). I did not sit down and actually learn it, I just guessed. WHY?????? I was sitting around with my former band and they wanted me to just go off the fly. Needless to say, I played it pretty well, but I knew something was off. When I did sit down and learn it, I was still trying to hit all these bad notes. I had to basically start over and retrain my brain.
Review!!!!! I always go through past lessons with students. I like to keep things fresh and test them. Yes, I will be silly and make them play all the open chords I taught them even though we have moved on to modes. Why? Why not? You would not believe how many times I have had a student stop and have to think about an E minor chord.
Relax and sit up straight!!!!
What if you don't want to practice???? There is some debate on that, but in general I say two things if you are not in the mood:
1) Don't practice. Unwind, hang out, play a game. There is nothing wrong with that. 2) Goof off with your instrument. As I have said before, when I am not in the mood to sit down and do something I turn it up and just jam out or play whatever comes to mind. On the rare occasion, I will just not play.
Now, what do I usually do?
Keeping this simple, I usually work on something I would like to excel. For instance, let's say I want to work on rhythm guitar. Lately as of this writing, I have been working on Dream Theaters "Under a glass moon". There is one part I am having an issue with, so I practice it slow until it sounds perfect, then I speed up.
I do practice everyday! Sometimes an hour of solid practice or many hours. Really depends on the day.
When there are days I do not wish to sit down with my trusty metronome, I review things I know or just jam out.
Well, I hope that helps a little. Like I said, feel free to comment or add or if you need anything, just email me.