Does guitar practice ever feel overwhelming, too hard, or like a chore? Take a tip or 50 from guitar teacher Jerry W. and you’ll have enough material to work with to keep practice fun for the rest of your life. As an added bonus, we’ve peppered in extra resources for you so you can learn even more about each guitar practice tip. Ready Freddie? Let’s get started!
1. Use a metronome.
Practicing guitar with a metronome trains you to play in time, which is useful whether you want to play in an ensemble, with a drummer, or as a soloist.
2. Learn the music slow and then gradually speed up.
Go slow and you’ll make fewer mistakes. Slowing down also helps you develop your muscle memory, so you’ll be able to learn new pieces of music on a deeper level.
3. Practice the music faster than the necessary tempo. When you slow down it will feel easier to play.
When you’re ready to challenge yourself, kick up the tempo on a piece of music that you already know well. You might even enjoy playing your piece along to a guitar jam track at a fast tempo, or one with a different groove than you’re used to. Have fun experimenting with different tempos and you might be surprised at what you’re able to play.
4. Schedule a specific time to practice.
Setting aside time each day to play is the best way to make sure you never forget to practice, but it’s just the first step to developing an efficient practice schedule.
5. Practice regularly – aim for at least 5 days per week.
If you still need a little nudge to jump-start your guitar practice, you can try one of these 10 ways to trick yourself into practicing.
6. Select a practice location with few distractions.
If you can, set aside space in your home that’s just for guitar practice. Make your own guitar practice sanctuary and you’ll find your practice time much more relaxing and enjoyable.
7. Use a music stand. It will help your posture and focus.
Using a music stand makes a huge difference in your ability to maintain proper posture while you play, which will make you more comfortable and relaxed. In fact, having all the essential guitar accessories handy when you’re practicing is a great idea. Take a look at this list and make sure you have all the items readily accessible in your practice space.
8. Listen to your body – Can you see the music well? Use proper posture. Get enough rest.
If you’re physically uncomfortable while you’re practicing, you won’t enjoy yourself and you probably won’t see a lot of results either. Not sure about your posture or feeling awkward with your guitar? You can always check your posture with this handy guide.
9. Find a private teacher. A teacher will help you know what to practice and guide your practice time.
Taking lessons with a private guitar teacher is the best way to see huge improvements in your playing. Your guitar teacher can help you pinpoint areas you need to improve and give you the tools to actually get better.
10. Have clear goals.
It’s important to have both big and small goals when you’re learning to play the guitar. Your big goals are the reasons you started to play in the first place, and mastering small goals along the way will keep you motivated. Not sure what your goals should be? Try asking yourself these questions.
11. Be critical. Aim for perfection. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
Remember: the way you practice is the way you will perform. Be mindful during your practice time, and don’t practice with sloppy technique or repeated mistakes. Take the time to get it right.
12. Don’t be too critical. No one’s perfect!
Don’t get frustrated or beat yourself up when you make mistakes. Remember, all musicians at every level make mistakes in practice; it’s just part of the learning process. Keep a good attitude and don’t lose your motivation.
13. Practice what you cannot do. Don’t just play what you already can do.
Many experts recommend playing your most challenging material at the beginning of your practice, right after you play your warm up. At this point in your practice, you should be feeling warmed up and ready to tackle the hard stuff.
14. Keep practicing favorite pieces that are easy for you. Have some fun, don’t just work on hard music.
Practice the pieces you love to play and keep them fresh. This is how you develop your repertoire, or your set of songs that you’re able to easily perform and share.
15. Select music to practice that you enjoy.
If you love what you’re playing, you’ll want to keep coming back to your guitar every day. Having fun and playing music that you like will ensure that you never get bored with your guitar practice.
16. Select music or exercises to practice that will challenge you (even if you don’t enjoy it.)
Challenges help us grow, so if you want to get better at guitar it’s important to keep challenging yourself with technical exercises on a regular basis. Ask your guitar teacher for some drills or find some online at Guitar Cardio.
17. Visualize yourself playing a passage of music. Notice where you cannot visualize yourself playing the music. That’s where you need to work.
Visualization can be a powerful tool in your guitar practice arsenal. Learn more about visualization and start your practice sessions by visualizing the pieces you want to work on.
18. Practice only using visualization. Can you correct the mistakes in your mind?
When your visualization skills are a bit more refined, you can even practice without your guitar. This is a great practice method you can use anywhere, from sitting on a train to standing in line at the grocery store.
19. Play duets. You can even play a duet with yourself by recording one part and then playing along with the recording.
There are many, many benefits to playing duets! If you have the chance, you should absolutely work on a duet with a friend, your guitar teacher, or even with a recording of yourself. You’re sure to learn a lot.
20. Transpose the music up or down.
Transposing music from one key to another helps you learn intervals and trains your ear to recognize the relationships between notes. If you’ve never transposed music before, start by transposing a guitar chord progression into a new key, and work your way up from there.
21. Practice playing without looking at your hands. Train your hands to go to the right place without looking.
Do you tend to stare at your left hand while you play guitar? Try these tips to play guitar without looking at your hands.
22. Just memorized a new piece of music? Shift your gaze to your hands so you can look at your technique as you play through it again.
Guitar technique is about more than just playing the notes. You’ve got to play them well and with your hands in the correct positions. Watch your hands sometimes when you practice to make sure you’re playing with great guitar technique.
23. Focus on dynamics – don’t just play one volume.
Dynamics add a dimension of life, power, and meaning to your guitar playing that gets lost if you play only at one volume. Learn how to use dynamics in your guitar playing and make it a regular part of your guitar practice.
24. Focus on articulation – accents, staccato, legato.
Articulation is all about how you play the notes — fast, clear, slurred, or flowing. Hone in on your articulation with these guitar exercises next time you practice.
25. Focus on rhythm.
If you like to play pop, rock, or country music, good rhythm guitar technique is absolutely crucial. For extra focus on rhythm, use your left hand to mute the strings while you practice playing rhythm patterns, so you can really focus in on your right hand.
26. Focus on learning new strumming patterns.
The more rhythm guitar patterns you know, the more options you have to draw from when you’re learning a new song or writing music of your own.
27. Learn to play a new style of music.
28. Practice playing a musical line or “lick” using a pick and then using fingers.
Depending on the style of music you play and your own personal preferences, you might find you prefer flatpicking over fingerpicking (or vice versa). However, it’s always a good idea to practice both techniques to keep your playing versatile. You might even change your mind or discover a new sound.
29. Learn scales.
Scales are the building blocks of chords, riffs, solos, and every piece of music you play. They’re also a wonderful way to practice your technique. If you don’t have any scales to practice, try the moveable pentatonic to get started.
30. Learn arpeggios.
Arpeggios are another basic building block of music. If you don’t know any, get started with these.
31. Always start with a warm up routine – This might include scales, arpeggios and techniques you are working on.
Warming up when you practice helps prevent injury to your hands and, over time, your warm up will help you get focused and ready to play. If you don’t have a guitar warm up routine yet, try this one or this one.
32. Learn a new guitar technique. If you haven’t already, try muting, harmonics, left hand dampening, hammer-ons, or pull-offs to get started.
When you hear a guitarist do something that makes you think, “wow, how’d they do that?”, ask your guitar teacher, and take some time in your next practice session to work on learning their technique. If none of the techniques listed above are familiar to you, start with hammer ons and pull offs.
33. Practice chords in multiple positions on the fretboard.
If you’re already familiar with your basic open guitar chords, try learning barre chords, or even start learning new shapes for chords up and down the neck. Test yourself to see how many different ways you can play the same chord.
34. Record yourself and critique the recording.
If you’re not in the habit of listening back to yourself, you’ll get a lot of insight into how you play by recording yourself. There are at least eight good reasons you should record yourself playing guitar, and you’ll probably think of a couple more in the process. You don’t need fancy recording equipment. The voice recorder on your cell phone or computer should be good enough to get the job done.
35. Play along with a recording.
Playing to a recording is a great way to get the feel for playing with another musician, but without the pressure of having to play in front of anyone. You can play along to a song that you’ve been studying or see if you can learn something new by ear.
36. Practice the left and right hand movements separately before combining them.
Practicing your left and right hand parts separately is actually a great way to build coordination. Each part becomes easier for you when you play it separately, so when you put them together, playing guitar will be a piece of cake.
37. Sing the rhythm before you try to play it.
If a tricky rhythm is throwing you off, try singing it before you play it. Then, try these guitar exercises to improve your groove.
38. Sing the melodic line or lick before you try to play it.
Singing can help you learn to play melodies too, or even help you write your own.
39. Take breaks – don’t practice so long that it makes you hate practicing.
The last thing you want to do is get burned out on playing guitar. Keep your practice sessions short and sweet. This will encourage you to play more.
40. Practice more than one time a day – two or three shorter practice times will accomplish more than one long one.
Several short focused practice sessions are better than one, drawn-out, boring session. Work with your natural ability to focus and don’t push yourself to the point that you’re no longer being productive.
41. Practice for musicality – don’t just practice the notes – work to express the music.
Beyond great technique, perfect pitch, and solid timing, musicality is the way your playing emotionally moves your audience. To improve your musicality, think beyond just what you are playing to focus on why you are playing it. What is this piece of music expressing? Keep fine-tuning your musicality with these 99 tips.
42. Listen to good guitarists.
You know those lists of the greatest guitarists of all time that are all over the Internet? Start taking names you’re not familiar with and listen closely. Listen to great guitarists you love, hate, or don’t quite understand. The more you listen, the more you will learn about what you want to be able to do and what is possible.
43. Learn to read music.
Learning to read music will open lots of doors for you as a musician, especially if you want to play with an ensemble or do studio work.
44. Learn to read tabs.
Guitar tabs are quick and dirty form of musical notation. If you don’t already know how to read tabs, they will make it easy to learn new pieces of music or jot down ideas of your own.
45. Ask for help or tips from another guitarist.
Get help when you’re stuck, whether it’s from a friend, your guitar teacher, or a video online. It’s better to ask a question than to struggle with needless frustration.
46. Teach someone something you have learned.
Research has shown that if you’re learning new information or skills, you’re much more likely to remember them if you teach them to someone else. Pay your guitar knowledge forward and it will pay off for you too!
47. Hammer your fingers down on the fretboard as you play to lock in the feel of a new pattern.
Many people struggle with memorizing new music. Getting a good kinetic feel for the music can be a big help. Try these extra tips to learn new music faster.
48. Don’t rush over the rests in music – silence is an important part of playing too.
Rests may not be the first thing you notice when you listen to music, but you would certainly notice if they were gone! Rests play an important role in the pacing, rhythm, and musicality of every piece of music you hear.
49. Always tune before you practice.
Nobody wants to play an out-of-tune guitar! To make sure you sound your best, always tune your guitar before you practice.
50. Reward yourself when you accomplish something that was a challenge.
Nobody ever said playing guitar would be easy, so be sure to notice when things that were once challenging become easy. If all of a sudden you can play that hard chord, riff, or whole song in your sleep, that’s cause for a celebration. Give yourself a pat on the back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. You’re doing a great job, now keep going!
Get even more guidance, tips, and tricks by taking lessons from a private guitar teacher. Find your guitar teacher now!
Jerry W. teaches classical guitar, composition, trombone and trumpet in Grosse Pointe, MI. He received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Cornerstone University and went on to receive both his Masters and PhD in Music Composition from Michigan State University. Jerry has been making music and teaching students for over thirty years. Learn more about Jerry W. here!