How to practice guitar

The basics:

Practice makes perfect!
We all know that in order to be a good guitar player we need to practice, it’s true for any other instrument, or sport or any other skill in life.

We know it but yet, we’re sometimes lazy or we don’t know what to work on, or it seems that we’re practicing enough but we’re getting poor results, and we’re ending up frustrated.

Yes it’ a bit easier for some people, but natural gift/talent but is a very very small percentage of what makes a great player. The best guitar players, virtuosos, have practiced and are still practicing countless hours to get where they are now, gift or abilities are so insignificant compared to that, only your practice will reflect how good is your playing…

We often assume straight away that we have no or very little talent/abilities, this is a big mistake, that literaly destroys your motivation. You don’t know it till you haven’t tried hard enough. Some people use this statement as an excuse for their lazyness, true!


How often should I practice?
Especially when you start the guitar, you have to practice EVERYDAY. We generally recommend a minimum absolutely vital of 20mins a day if you’re very busy in your life. But it would be better to dedicate 30mins to an 1 hour daily. When I was a student, I had more free time so I remember at one stage practicing 3 to 4 hours.

It’s better to practice, even just a few minutes every day, rather than a few hours every 2 weeks, too many gaps with a few days without playing, your practice won’t be efficient at all, it’s important to make your fingers work on consistent and regular basis.


So how your practice time should be organized then?

You have to make your practice time enjoyable and fun for yourself, if you have to practice every day, you have no choice really so, it has to be something you want to get into easily . We all have good and bad days, but you have to stick to it, see the big picture, you’ll be a great player one day!


Set up your goals:

You have to clearly define what your challenges, goals are, in the short and long term, they might change along the way but it’s important to know where you’re going, it is not a bad idea also to set up a deadline, some of your goals could look like:

‘I need to be able to play bar chords  within 2 months’

‘I need to be able to play this song before the end of the week, I have to go over the pentatonic scale and do some fingering exercises for next week, etc…’

Some things take longer to be mastered than others, but it is important to work and build your skills on different areas of the playing, for many reasons:

– Working on different things make the practice more enjoyable, if you only concentrate on playing chords, or practicing the same couple of songs and you only do that for the next 6 months, it might be boring after a while!

– Practicing multiple things: chords, music theory, finger picking, soloing, really effective because, the skills you develop in one area can be useful in another area of the playing.

For example, if you’re practicing a melody, you may build up stretch, ability and strength on your fingers that will be ultimately useful when changing chords, there are many examples like that.


Scheduling throughout the week:

As discussed, it’s good to have a rotating schedule with different items to work on. Some people have a practice log where they organize their time:

Monday: 10mn of chords, 15mn of scales, 20mn of practicing songs

Tuesday: 10mn finger warm up, 10mn playing arpeggios, 30mn music theory


The items depend obviously on what you’re working on right now, but it’s important to work on several things, rotate the amount of time spent everyday on each topic

Another good idea is to get a timer, you can set up say, the next 10mn on changing between G to D chord…it is a good way to stay focused and force yourself to use these 10 mins on what you really planned to do and not be distracted by other things


When practicing a song or a piece of music:

Work with a metronome or drum loops (more fun), especially if you struggling with the rhythm, you can tap your foot, it helps you stay on track.

Nowadays it’s easy and handy to record yourself, it’s a good idea to do it regurlarly, it is just like taking a picture of your playing in a moment in time. This way you can monitor your progress and more important be more aware of the things that need work!

Generally, when you’re practicing something:

– NARROW DOWN the difficult parts, don’t play the entire song over and over again  just because you’re struggling with the change between 2 chords.

– Repeat, repeat and repeat it again: Isolate these tough chunks (it might be a solo lick, strumming pattern, chord change etc…) from the song and repeat them intensively, VERY SLOW AT FIRST!!

This is very important, because in our excitement or getting the song down, we always want to practice the difficult parts way too fast, along the lines of the original tempo.  This is of course want we want to achieve, but we have to be patient and repeat the selected chunk slowly until we get it right. Leave the time for your brain and fingers to digest the stuff!! Then, when it start to sound not too bad, you can gradually reach the desired tempo.


Final words:

Don’t be confused between PRACTICING and JAMMING, it is not the same thing. There is time to learn and rehearse, and there is a time for playing what we already know. I’ve been guilty myself many times, starting my practice seriously and jamming away after 5 minutes, as you know it’s easy to get distracted, so force yourself to have a minimum of self-discipline, you won’t regret it!

When we start the guitar we are not necessarily aware of all these things, it’s harder to stick at it because the reward of our efforts is not coming straight away…

But when you manage to overcome your first challenges, when you hit your first victories, when you get more advanced and the reality even exceed your expectations, you’re fully aware practice pays off and there is no way around it…

That’s it folks, you gonna have to roll up your sleeves now!


Don’t hesitate to contact me for more info regarding this topic, I’ll be glad to help.