A No-nonsense Guide to Effective Guitar Practice

Effective Guitar Practice

Stuck practicing the same scales or exercise, session after session with little results?


It doesn’t have to be that way! You can easily shift to a more effective guitar practice routine and start seeing results within a month.


So let’s deal with some common misconceptions and get an overview of what effective guitar practice is.



Practice, Yawn….

The first, classic misconception is that guitar or any type of practice should be boring, Wrong! If it’s boring, you’re focusing on the wrong stuff or not trying to make it fun.


For example instead of trying to learn a new set of chords, learn a song (that you like) with those chords in it. Practice that instead. Chances are you’ll move onto a song at some point, so why not start there?


Once you have learnt a new scale, write a solo or song based on the scale. Don’t just practice playing scales mindlessly over and over again.



Just Exercises

The second misconception is that guitar practice should be exercise based. Of course, some of it should be. However, the majority of your practice should help to increase your ability as a musician.


Of course, if you’re struggling with a chord change, isolate it and get the two chords flowing together, in time and in tune. But do so with the aim of using them in the song.



Fun Begins After Practice

Please, don’t see exercises as a necessary evil which should be carried out at breakneck speed without any consideration to whether you’re doing it correctly!


Instead, see your practice time as a way to focus on one element until it sounds and feels natural. Work on adding useable ideas to your library and stop wasting time working on ideas or concepts you won’t use.



So what’s Effective Guitar Practice?

It’s focusing on elements you plan to use at some point so you can produce inspiring harmonies and great melodies.


For example, you learn a cool E minor 9 chord in the open position. It sounds really good! So you decide to take the component notes and move them around the fretboard in the hope that you discover some other chord voicings.


In your exploration, you find three new E minor 9 voicings which inspire a new introduction and you to write another song. Then, my friend, that’s what I call effective guitar practice.


Increased your knowledge and your ability to improvise is always worth the time spent on it.


Likewise, working on music theory is great as long as you are relating it to a piece of music. If you’re just trying to accumulate knowledge for no purpose (or to grow your ego), then maybe you need to rethink your reason for playing guitar!



“Practise what you want to be able to play, so that you can translate what’s in your head into your hands”



If you do, you’ll feel more confident and play guitar better!



Progressing Effectively

That’s All well and good, but is there a way to speed up progress and make even better use of practice time?


Yes, there is! Goal setting. Finding, measuring and attaining goals.


If you have a goals programme built around a long term plan with measurements and rewards along the way, you’re more likely to keep going. At this point you may be thinking ‘but I’m only learning for fun or can’t do regular practice sessions because of other commitments’.


Even so, you could see massive improvement over the next month if you put aside 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. I’m talking about giving your full attention during that time to what you are learning.


So, turn off your phone, computer and anything else that would encourage you to get distracted, even if only for 20 minutes.


If you really focus your attention on mastering one or two items over this time and measure yourself through the process you will see results.



Measuring Results

What do I mean by measuring? Well, a great way to analyse progress is to record yourself. You don’t need state-of-the-art equipment. Something affordable like the Sony ICDPX370 Mono Digital Voice Recorder will be more than enough and costs under $50!


All you need is a way to record a clear signal in order to give you an accurate picture of where you’re at. Even if all you want to achieve is to learn how to play scales better.


Record yourself at day one, including all the mistakes you make. Yes, warts and all. Then at the end of the first week, record yourself again and save it.


If you worked hard enough during the week, then you’ll hear a difference on playback. Your improvement should be more noticeable the longer you keep recording yourself.




It’s often a lack of focus, commitment and dedicated time that stops people reaching the next level in their playing. It doesn’t matter if your just a beginner guitarist or have been playing for a while.


I didn’t say effective guitar practice was easy, but having goals and a specific practice time dramatically increases your results.


Let me know if you need help planning goals by leaving a comment.

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