I am often asked how I practice, what I practice, and how much time I spend practicing guitar.
I always feel like answering: I don’t :^)
This is not true of course. But what is true is, the practicing I do takes the form of pursuing particular goals that I enjoy pursuing, so I don’t think of it as practicing.
My practicing falls into three different areas: composing new music, preparing for shows and tours, and warming up on the day of a show.
When I am writing new music, the content (and goal) of the practicing is the tune I am developing.
I spend this time creating and mastering new ideas, as well as deciding how different ideas and sections fit together in the composition.
Hours can roll by before I notice it.
You could call this composing-oriented practicing.
When I am preparing for a show or a tour, the content (and goal) of the practicing is the repertoire of tunes I will be performing.
This time is spent familiarizing (or re-familiarizing) myself with the chosen material. I like to feel comfortable and confident with a tune before playing it in front of people, so I play the tune all the way through, usually twice, before moving on to the next one.
This kind of practicing can take up many hours as well.
You could call it preparation-oriented practicing.
And then there’s warm-up practicing.
I find it essential to warm-up on the guitar on the day of a performance, but I have also learned that it is equally important not to over-play, as this can result in hand fatigue during a show (a scary situation to find yourself in). So I am careful not to over-practice on gig days.
I pick a few representative tunes (i.e. tunes containing typical techniques and moves I will be doing throughout the concert) and play them through once or twice, looking for that “point” of feeling physically relaxed and musically in touch.
This takes a half an hour at the most.
When I reach that point I put the guitar away (no matter how much fun I’m having) until soundcheck time.