Getting better at any instrument requires a fair amount of practice. After all, the 10,000 hour rule also applies to guitarists as well. However, you may be wondering about the right ways to practice.
The truth is that most professional guitarists became skilled by creating and following a strict practice routine. This routine can vary from person to person, so a routine that worked for your favorite guitarist may not necessarily work for you.
The good news is that it is possible to craft a great practice routine that suits you and allows you to hone in your craft at a comfortable pace. Today we will be looking at how to create the perfect guitar practice routine.
Importance of Having a Good Guitar Practice Routine
You can spend plenty of time learning music theory and looking up chord shapes in guidebooks, but the best way to actually get better at playing the guitar is through practice. However, it is vital for this practice to be part of a broader pre-planned routine.
Guitarists who attempt to sharpen their skills using a poor practice routine usually make progress at a very slow pace. This means they are quickly overtaken by other guitarists who are following better-crafted routines.
The right practice routine pushes you to keep moving forward and make progress. You can certainly try practicing everyday, but that may not be a feasible arrangement for everyone. Instead, a good practice routine is usually built around your guitar-playing needs and availability. We have outlined the steps for creating the perfect practice routine in the next section.
Step 1: Determine Your Goals
Most people get into learning the guitar because they wish to achieve certain goals. Some would like to get into songwriting, while others may prefer to become skilled at improvising over or jamming to their favorite songs.
Your guitar-playing goals will impact your practice routine. Therefore, it is important to have a good idea of what you would like to do before creating your practice routine.
If your goal is to get into songwriting, your practice routine will encompass more than simply learning playing techniques. You will also need to devote a fair amount of time towards composing chord progressions and crafting lead guitar portions.
During this step, it may help to determine what style or genre of music your songs will follow. A good rule of thumb is to write a list of songs you would like to emulate in your songwriting. You can then craft a routine that takes this style into account.
Goal: Covering Songs
Many guitarists aren’t interested in writing their own songs. Instead, they get a thrill out of covering songs by other musicians. These could be songs that they enjoy listening to, or songs that pose a great technical challenge.
If your goal is to cover songs, you should consider making a list of tracks you wish to target. This could be a short list consisting of eight to twelve songs. You can then consult this list at a later time when you are crafting your practice routine.
If you are dreaming of starting or joining a jam band, you will likely need to know how to improvise. This usually entails putting on a backing track or jamming with other musicians. If you plan to do this, consider writing it down as one of your goals.
Step 2: Plan the Techniques
You will likely need to learn a variety of different guitar techniques to be able to play what you intend to play. For example, if you want to learn songs that use slides and vibrato frequently, you will probably need to focus on learning these techniques. Once you have these skills down, it will be much easier to play the songs you wish to play.
To start this planning process, you should consider listening to some of the songs you intend to learn. Write down the different techniques and playing styles used in the song. It may also help to look up the guitar tabs for this song online and see if the author has mentioned anything about the different techniques they used.
If you see a particular technique such as bends used frequently in a song, you should prioritize learning how to do them over other techniques.
Step 3: Find the Right Exercises
Once you know which techniques you will need to learn, you should figure out which exercises can help you sharpen them. The good news is that there are plenty of free resources available for this. You can find dozens, if not hundreds of Youtube videos that show off different guitar practice exercises.
These could be exercises that help you play different scales more fluidly. Similarly, you can find many videos that show exercises to improve your strumming technique.
Step 4: Craft Your Practice Routine
Now that you have practice resources that show you how to learn your instrument, you are ready to put it all together and form your practice routine.
Consider charting out the progression for each skill you wish to learn as well the amount of time they will take. You should also plan learning different techniques simultaneously as this diversity will make practice sessions less tiresome. For example, you can try tackling Strumming Lessons 101 alongside Chord Shapes 101.
Next, you can plan how long you would like your practice sessions to be. If you have a day job or other obligations, you probably won’t be able to devote multiple hours to practice each day. In such situations it is perfectly okay to devote less time to practice. A 15 minute or 30 minute practice session should still be sufficient enough to help you pick up on core techniques and improve them.
If you do plan to keep your practice sessions short, you should ensure that the time is being used efficiently. This means spending each minute working on improving a playing technique before cycling into the next one. You should also have practice materials on-hand and ready before starting each session.
The last thing to plan is your practice frequency. Many guitarists aim to practice every single day in an effort to speed up the learning process. However, this doesn’t account for the physical toll that such practice can take on their hands. After all, overexerting yourself can lead to strain or injuries that impact your future practice session.
Consider creating a practice routine that involves practicing five times a week. This arrangement gives you two rest days that give your hands time to recover.
As you can see, creating a guitar practice routine is quite straightforward once you understand what your goals are. So consider consulting the above guide before you set out to create a practice routine.
A truly great routine will help you sharpen your skills at a good pace and without overexerting yourself. The trick is to find an arrangement that helps you make progress while also being sustainable in the long run.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.