Having a game plan for musical development

Begin with the end in mind - I came across this phrase years ago after reading Steve Covey's bestseller The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People (it is his second habit). I think the phrase is relevant as it focuses on what we want to be and in turn, how to get there.

Too many guitarists have unspecific main goals; general references for being 'better', 'faster' or 'playing like Hendrix/Vai/Slash/SRV' are common desires. Thing is, these are too unspecific to drive any meaningful progress.

Enter Steve Covey's statement as it's a game changer - what do you really, deeply want to become? The more specific and macro you visualise the improved you, the better you'll be equipped to plan your route to get there.

Your ideal end doesn't have to be exclusively long term either. Along the way you need to impose lots of mid and short-term goals. One goal type is self-directed. For example, here's one agenda: you should learn all five minor pentatonics in all 12 keys. So you decide on doing one key per week, adding a further shape per 15 minute nightly session over five nights (end of week = all 5 shapes in one key learnt and practiced several times).

After three months you've nailed the scale, improved your technique (practice with a metronome) and greatly expanded fretboard knowledge. Your goal is clear and the outcome has empowered your playing.

The other goal type is externally driven: you're booked on a gig in a month's time. So what do you need to do in order to arrive at the gig well prepared, confident and ready to perform to an audience? You are now focused on how to plan your schedule with a self-improvement outcome.

On Guitar Techniques, we're all very aware about guitar playing time and it's limitations. Some of us have several hours a day to play and others half an hour a night. It's for this reason we run a variety of different article lengths and playing requirements across numerous genres. From five minute licks to 6 month+ study articles or song transcriptions, you could say we're creating the magazine with the end in mind too.

I recommend you check out Steve Covey's work - he is very inspirational and many of his outlooks are worth their weight in gold. Indeed, his 7th habit works a treat for us too: his '(make sure to) sharpen the saw' habit could work just as well (literally and metaphorically) as '(make sure to) sharpen the pick'!