guitar practice routine

The Interleaving Method: A New and Improved Way to Practice Guitar

guitar practice routine

When you’re learning guitar, it’s essential to practice between lessons. But a long guitar practice can be overwhelming and exhausting, and sometimes, it can even be counterproductive! We’re not telling you to ditch practice altogether, but we want to help you make the most of your time. Here, guitar teacher Andy W. shares his method for an efficient, effective guitar practice routine… 

Has this ever happened to you? You feel frustrated and exhausted after a long guitar practice. After an hour of playing the same song, it just doesn’t sound much better. Sure, you’re more comfortable with the notes, but they don’t seem to fall naturally into place.

We’re all familiar with the phrase “practice makes perfect,” and with that in mind, you reluctantly buckle down for yet another hour of guitar practice.

This is a common experience for most musicians, including myself. However, I’ve recently discovered a guitar practice routine that not only improves my performance but also makes guitar practice more spontaneous and fun.

Guitar Practice Routine: Three Sets of Three

I propose that you experiment using three sets of three in your daily guitar practice routine. This method is called interleaved practice (or random practice). I learned about it from a video with performance psychologist, Dr. Noa Kageyama.

The first step  is to pick three things to focus on. For a beginner, this might look like this:

  1. Verse Chords to “Brown Eyed Girl”
  2. C Major Scale
  3. Alternate Picking

Now, start with the first item, the chords for the verse of “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. You only need to practice that for as little as two to five minutes.

Next, practice the C major scale for another two to five minutes. Then, practice alternate picking for two to five minutes. This completes one set.

For the second set, practice each item in the same order for the same amount of time.

Lastly, repeat the process to complete the third set. Simple enough, right?

Why This Method Works

Here’s why this guitar practice routine works: As you move from one task to another, you force yourself to quickly forget what you just did. Then, because you forgot a task, you’re forced to remember it when you return to it.

According to Dr. Noa Kageyama, this act of remembering is called effortful recall . Studies show that this helps you develop long-term improvement in a subject.

With three sets of tasks, you can experience effortful recall twice to solidify the neural connections that will make the memory last.

Tennis as an Example

While this method is great for guitarists and musicians, interleaved practice has worked wonders for athletes as well.

Dr. Kageyama gives this example in his video: A tennis player could practice their back-hand swing, forehand swing, and then volley shot – each for 15 minutes. Unfortunately, this method requires a much slower rate of effortful recall than a player would actually experience in a real game.

Instead, if they reduce the time they practice each swing to two to five minutes, they will experience a much more rapid rate of effortful recall. This will simulate the fast-paced demands of an actual game, and the player will retain more of their practice.

The Effects of Interleaved Practice vs. Traditional Practice

It’s important to understand the effects of interleaved practice vs. your old guitar practice routine, where you focus on a single task for an extended period of time. In a traditional guitar practice, you become really comfortable with the tempo, the notes, the feel. You get really good at one song for one day. This can be very helpful at certain times, but not always.

When you practice a song one day and then sleep on it, you forget a little about how you played it. The next day, you begin your practice from a much lower level of performance than if you had used interleaved practice.

But, there’s also a downside to interleaved practice. With this method, you don’t allow yourself adequate time to become comfortable with a song. This can be discouraging in the moment because you probably won’t become great at that song in just one day.

While this might seem less than ideal, you will notice the benefits of interleaved practice the next day, when you retain much more from your songs, and start from a greater level of performance than if you had just focused on one song the entire time.

With traditional practice, you have to sleep and wake up in order to forget and remember, which is what helps to strengthen your memory. But with interleaved practice, you’re forgetting and remembering in a matter of minutes!

Take Action!

I know it can be difficult to give up your old guitar practice routine, especially when that’s what you’re used to. I recommend trying just one interleaved practice; if you like it, then make a habit of it.

You can do multiple interleaved practices a day, or you could try just one. Follow that with a regular practice, and then go back to interleaved practice. Customize this method to make it work for you.

After trying interleaved practice, I noticed a significant improvement in my performance. My hands just seemed to know where they were going on their own. In my students, I’ve seen big improvements in their retention of songs. For some of them, it’s been the key to learning songs quickly and effectively.

I encourage you to incorporate the interleaving method in your guitar practice routine; you’ll be amazed what it can do for your playing. Happy Practicing!

Looking for more guitar practice tips? Check out these guitar resources:

Have you tried interleaving practice? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

Post Author: Andy W.
Andy teaches guitar, bass, piano, music theory, and more in Englewood, CO. He is a guitarist, bassist, pianist, singer, composer, and educator with a Bachelor’s of Music from the University of Northern Colorado. Learn more about Andy here!

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how to practice guitar

How to Practice Guitar in 15 Minutes | An Efficient Practice When You’re Short on Time

how to practice guitar

When you’re learning guitar, you know how important it is to practice. Sometimes, however, you just don’t have time for a full practice session. This doesn’t mean you need to skip practice altogether. In this video, Austin, TX. guitar instructor Aimee B. teaches you how to practice guitar in 15 minutes…

If you want to boost your guitar skills, you need to increase your knowledge of chord voicings. There’s more than one way to play the same chord on the guitar. The good news is that the guitar is made up of a series of repeating patterns.

We will use a system, called CAGED to understand the five positions of a major chord on the guitar neck. Once you learn how to voice one major chord and its relation to the CAGED pattern, you can easily voice the same chord in multiple positions.

How to Practice Guitar in 15 Minutes

One Minute: Centering Visualization

Approach your practice with a calm, positive mind. Take a minute to take a few deep breaths and visualize yourself with your instrument.

This is your time to focus on your practice, so give yourself permission to mentally let go of the other matters in your day.

Three Minutes: Open Voicings of the C, A, G, E, and D Major Chords

Practice voicing the C, A, G, E and D major chords in the open position on the guitar neck.

The open position refers to the area of the first three frets on the guitar neck where you have open (unfretted) strings ringing out.

Practice moving smoothly between each chord. The goal is to memorize the shape of the chord, or the way it looks on the guitar.

guitar practice


Five Minutes: Identify the Root of the C, A, G, E, and D Major Chords in Open Position

Voice a chord and identify the root of the chord by playing only the string(s) where the root is located. The root of the C chord is “C”, the root of the A chord is “A”, and so on.

Again, the key is to think of the shape of the chord and memorize where the roots are within that shape. You don’t need to memorize string and fret numbers.

Use the following to check your knowledge of the roots in each chord:

C Chord/C Shape Roots

B string 1st fret
A string 3rd fret

A Chord/A Shape Roots

G string 2nd fret
Open A string

G Chord/G Shape Roots

Low E string 3rd fret
High E string 3rd fret
Open G string

E Chord/E Shape Roots

Open low E string
Open high E string
D string 2nd fret

D Chord/D Shape Roots

Open D string
B string 3rd fret

NOTE: Instead of thinking of an open string as being open, think of the guitar nut located at the head of the guitar as being a finger holding a position.

In other words, visually approach the nut of your guitar as being another fingered fret.

guitar practice


Eight Minutes: Take One Chord and Move through the Five Shapes on the Guitar (CAGED)

Play the C major chord, starting in open position, and move up (higher) on the guitar neck through the five different shapes of the chord. In all instances, you will play a C major chord.

The notes voiced in the C major chord are C, E, and G. All three of these notes that make up the C chord remain present as you move up on the guitar neck through the five positions. The only thing that changes is how the chord looks, or the shape, NOT the chord itself.

Here’s the easiest way to think of the five chord positions in the CAGED system:

“I’m playing a C chord that looks like a C shape; I’m playing a C chord that looks like the A shape; I’m playing a C chord that looks like the G shape; I’m playing a C chord that looks like the E shape; I’m playing a C chord that looks like the D shape.”

REMEMBER: Where the chord shape ends, the next shape begins!

guitar practice

guitar practice

Repeat Previous Steps for the A, G, E, and D Major Chords

Once you have moved the C major chord through each of the five positions, continue through the CAGED system voicings with a different chord.

For instance, start on an open A major chord. The next shape for the A chord, moving up on your guitar, is the G shape, then E, D, and C.

Guitar Practice Challenge

Take a three-chord song you know in open position, find the next chord shape up on your guitar for each chord, and relearn the song in this new position.

NOTE: Some positions are more friendly to play in than others.

So next time you think you don’t have enough time, remember how to practice guitar in 15 minutes. Don’t let your busy schedule get in the way of your guitar playing journey.

Ready to get started playing guitar? Search here for a teacher near you!

Aimee B.Post Author: Aimee B.
Aimee B. teaches piano, guitar and music theory in Austin, TX. She earned her B.A. in philosophy and art from St. Edward’s University, has worked as a professional musician for over ten years, and has taught over 100 students as a private music instructor.

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guitar practice routine

10 Simple Steps to the Perfect Guitar Practice Routine

guitar practice routine

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced guitarist,  you know the key to progress is practice! While there are several ways you can trick yourself into practicing guitar, developing a consistent guitar practice routine can help you be successful. In this guest post, David Hart, a guitarist and the creator of the G4 Guitar Method, shares 10 easy ways to develop an effective guitar practice routine…

We all know that to reach our goals on guitar we need to practice. As Tai Lopez says, the difference between successful people is they do what everyone knows they should do but don’t. So if a solid guitar practice routine is the key to success, the real question is how do we get ourselves to actually practice? Here are my top 10 suggestions…

Guitar Practice Routine

I’ll start with what I believe to be the most powerful strategy. A routine works because we are creatures of habit. Establishing a guitar practice routine is hard, but once established, it’s generally easy to maintain.

Schedule a time you will begin practice each day and absolutely stick to it. Don’t worry about the duration at first. Just start and see where it goes.

guitar practice routine

A common mistake is to decide you are going to be the next Hendrix and practice 8 hours a day. The main problem with starting big is it’s much easier to put it off. 10 mins a day is much easier to commit to than even an hour a day.

Very few people I know have empty schedules. The idea is to slowly squeeze out the other less important items on your busy schedule. The hardest part is often starting, and what you’ll generally find is the 10-minute sessions will soon morph into 20-minute, 30-minute, or even 2-hour sessions.

guitar practice routine
Attaching a reward to practice conditions your brain. Our brains are hardwired to seek out rewards. We see ourselves as sophisticated, rational beings, but the truth is, we are no different than any other animal. We have instincts and responses that are mostly the result of evolution.

Think of sugar for instance. Most people love sugar despite the fact that we all consume too much. This is because sugar is a source of energy in short supply through most of our evolution. Our brains get a boost after a sugar hit and this is why we seek it out. I am not suggesting using sugar as a reward here, but if you reward yourself whenever you practice, your brain will become wired to want to practice.

guitar practice routine

Planning your practice makes it more likely to happen. This has been shown in several studies. As a guitar teacher, I know that when I ask a student to practice something in a general way, it’s far less likely to be done compared to being specific.

For example, I might say “I want you to practice your scales this week”. If I were to say “I want you to practice the C scale in the first position at 70 beats per minute,” the odds of practice go up. Apply this same idea to yourself by deciding ahead of time exactly what you are going to work on.

guitar practice routine

Tracking practice minutes will often ignite your natural desire to improve your score. When I was a teen, video games like Space Invaders were all the rage. Kids would spend hours, and all of their pocket money, trying to beat their high score. There is just something about trying to out do ourselves that pushes us to practice more when we track our practice minutes.

When I made practice logs compulsory for all my students, the amount of practice and progress tripled. I was actually blown away by the results. Many of the students resisted at first, but after the first month or two, they were in the game and hooked.

guitar practice routine
Close your eyes and think about where you’ll be in 5 or 10 years. Imagine your guitar playing being awesomely amazing. Feel how it feels to have fingers that just fly all over the fretboard with ease. Imagine people watching you in disbelief. Paint whatever picture works for you.

Now, reverse engineer that picture; see yourself practicing for hours every day. When we see our future selves in this way, it motivates us in the present. Seeing a bright, optimistic future pushes us to work harder in the now.

If we don’t have that positive imagine in our minds we are far more likely to quit or not even try. When Jimi Hendrix was a kid before ever picking up a guitar he would pretend with a broom. He already saw his future.

guitar practice routine
Imagining our future becomes easier when we read about our heroes. When you read their biographies, you get a sense of where they came from.

I was watching a video of Steve Vai (check him out on YouTube) and he mentioned how as a teen, he never thought he was any good on guitar. This was very humbling to hear. Such a successful, confident guitarist giving us a peek into his past. Even after 35 years of guitar playing I was still motivated by Steve’s comments. I will also say

Even after 35 years of guitar playing, I was still motivated by Steve’s comments. I will also say it’s not just guitar players. It can be anyone who you regard as successful. The road to success at almost anything is the same. There is a lot of work and commitment, and knowing the great achievers just worked harder for longer is motivational.

guitar practice routine
Learning with a friend increases the chances you will practice more often. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded people naturally motivates us. This is because we are inherently social. The people you surround yourself with will influence you sometimes without you even realizing.

One study showed that if your closest friends are obese, your chances of being obese are much higher than average. Having friends who play guitar inspires you to keep up. You can even practice together. Set a time each week where you come together and practice. Again, be specific. Perhaps work on a song together.

guitar practice routine

There’s nothing like a good concert to charge your practice batteries. It doesn’t have to be some big star where you pay $100 or more for a ticket. Seek out some talented, local guitar players and bands who motivate you and try and see one of them at least once a month.

When a big name act comes to town you can splurge, but work within your budget. In between that, watch some YouTube concerts. There are so many great videos today, that there is simply no excuse. Concerts are highly motivating so build it into your guitar practice routine to go to a concert or local performance or watch a video every week, and watch your motivation to practice go way up.

guitar practice routine

In my mind, a performance is game day. If there is no game day, what’s the point in all the practice? Performance makes practice meaningful. When you know you have a performance coming up, the pressure to practice goes up. This is a good thing and is one of the reasons I always encourage students to aim to perform once a month.

I would say the motivation to practice is in direct proportion to the number of people who will see you perform. When we look at the biggest acts today, their motivation is huge. They can have millions of people watching them so their practice schedules are intense, especially leading up to a big performance. In your case, start small: perform for family and friends, and then progress to an open mic venue. As you improve, you can hit larger audiences.

david hGuest Post Author: David Hart
David Hart began learning guitar in the early 1980s studying under various teachers, most notably Mark Bergman as well as studying jazz fundamentals at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Learn more about David and the G4 Guitar Method here!

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