Many beginner guitarists, especially those who don’t have a background in music or instrument playing, don’t really know how to practice the guitar effectively. I've seen this issue being brought up both online and in public by many beginner-intermediate guitar players seeking for guidance.

Obviously, there's a big interest in this subject, because how well and effective you practice directly dictates the progress you make on the guitar.

In this post, I'm going to share my thoughts on this matter and suggest a few efficient solutions that might just make your life easier practicing the guitar.

Is There a Difference Between Practicing a Song, and Practicing an Exercise?

No. Both should be approached the same way when practicing. The only difference is, a song can attract and entertain people, and doesn’t necessarily contain practice-worthy material, or stuff that can improve your techniques, whereas an exercise is made specifically to deal with a certain aspect of your playing.

You will find exercises for all purposes:

  • Finger agility
  • Playing stamina
  • A single technique, such as: Legato exercise
  • A few or all the techniques combined, such as: Vibrato and Bending, Sweep Picking and Alternate Picking, and so on.

Tip: When going to practice your guitar, it is ok to practice a song, but remember that an exercise is made exclusively to “exercise” you, and improve your techniques.

A Step-By-Step Guide for Effective Practicing

Below you will find my practicing routine when I want to practice a new song or an exercise. It's a routine that is adopted by all the guitarists that I know, and so far I haven't discovered a better one. So here it is:

  • STEP 1) Pick an exercise that matches your skill level
  • STEP 2) Cut it down into smaller segments, each no less than three notes, and no more than you can't handle (I would say, 10 – 20 notes)
  • STEP 3) Start with the first segment, SLOWLY, until you can play it flawlessly. Tip: Try memorizing the notes, it will help you play them better and faster because by doing so you will train your brain and muscle memory to automatically identify and play the notes, rather than searching for them again and again from the exercise sheet.
  • STEP 4) Now that you know this segment by heart, it's time to increase speed. Do so until you reach a speed where you can fairly handle it, but still propose some kind of a challenge, and stay there. DON'T play an exercise at a speed where you make a lot of mistakes, it's very inefficient and counter-productive.
  • STEP 5) Now, take the second segment and repeat steps 3 and 4.
  • STEP 6) Combine ALL the segments together, and play the exercise/song as a whole.

These are the six steps taken to practice anything on the guitar.

Repeat these steps while gradually going up with speed, until you can play the whole exercise/song at its natural speed with near perfect accuracy.

Be Even MORE Efficient With Your Practice

Get a Metronome. A metronome is important for intermediate-advanced players in order to keep them aware of their current speed level, as well as help them practice rhythm which is also essential.

With a metronome, you can specify the tempo precisely (60bpm, 100bpm, 160bpm, etc), and will allow you to speed up the tempo gradually to your convenient. A process that is proven to be the most efficient in developing speed and accuracy on the guitar.

I interviewed Nino Hilfrich, who is an expert guitarist from Germany. And in the interview I asked him how he has managed to develop his picking speed on the guitar, and he answered that a metronome played an essential role in his success.

Click the button below to go to that interview and see what else we've talked about:

NOTE: If you're looking for a more serious metronome, that is convenient, innovative, and versatile, I recommend checking the Soundbrenner Pulse metronome which is a smart, wearable Bluetooth metronome made by the startup company Singular Sound.

How Often to Practice the Guitar?

That’s yet another popular and a frequently asked question. In order to really see some positive results, and quickly as possible, you will have to dedicate lots of time to practice every and each day. Skipping a day or two for personal reasons is okay. After all, we all have our own personal plans and occupations, and time is not always in our hands.

I would say, minimum an hour a day is acceptable. Trust me, an hour a day is barely enough, those experts and professionals that you admire and enjoy listening to, have spent countless hours practicing every day to truly master this instrument. We're talking about six hours a day, eight, and even ten and beyond.

But again, those are the professionals, which means, playing guitar is their career. They make a living (and a pretty good living if I may say) out of playing the guitar. They have all the time in the world to practice and perfect their craft, so they can entertain us. If you are not intending to make a career in playing guitar, then you probably don’t have those six to ten hours a day to practice, and that is perfectly fine.

But you still want to master the guitar, don’t you? You still want to become really good and be able to nail some of the toughest songs and exercises and be really proud of yourself and impress others.

You can, even without sacrificing all your spare time to practice.

Spend an hour a day when you have a busy day. When you have more free time, you can spend two hours, up to four hours practicing.

If you're persistent and determined enough to stick to this routine, then you can almost guarantee your success.

Where to Find Guitar Exercises?

The internet is a big place, you can find lots of songs and exercises to practice, but there are a few problems.

Consistency, reliability, and quality. By using the vast internet to pick up random exercises, I'm sure that you'll come across a few good exercises, but the issue is that first, you don't have the ability to test their quality and determine whether they are any good or even match your skill level, and second, they are totally random! They are not part of any specific “learning system” or routine, most don't have any follow-up exercises or prerequisites, and you can't put them in any order that creates a coherent learning path, which renders them less effective overall.

Good exercises and a good practicing habit are both essential to developing your skills on the guitar. So where exactly can you find the right exercises and the right system that will be most beneficial to you? Continue reading below.

Two Solutions That I Recommend

One, getting a private guitar teacher can be great overall, but it can also be very expensive. Today, getting professional online guitar training is very popular and offers the same versatility and advantages of a real life guitar instructor, while being much, much cheaper.

I've reviewed some of the best online guitar teaching programs, you can check them below:

Two, instructional guitar books and songbooks is also a great method to find exercises material.

Many books offer a variety of exercises on many different topics. I've reviewed a group of books that in my opinion offer a lot of great exercises and information.

You can check them out below:

Final Thoughts

You now realize that in order to get better on the guitar, you have to practice effectively. And you also must have a proper system that can provide you with the proper exercises, in the proper order and time.

All you have to do now is follow your heart, decide your path and goals, and begin to practice following the instructions and solutions above. You WILL go far if you follow everything I've said and stay dedicated to the instrument.

Others have succeeded because they were dedicated to this, are you dedicated enough to succeed? Up to you to decide for yourself.

Final Tip: Watching your favorite guitarists play, and trying to learn from them, is also something that can donate to your training overall.

Don't try to imitate them, however, by simply watching their hands and fingers, and listening to them play, you can learn a great deal.

You can monitor how they do fast alternate picking for example, or how they bend strings and slide all over the fretboard, or you can simply be inspired.

Some of these inspirational guitar players that were a huge source of influence to me and got me into the guitar are:

  • Kirk Hammet (Metal) (of Metallica)
  • Jason Becker (Rock, Metal, Classical) (I recommend reading/watching his dramatic and inspirational story!)
  • John Petrucci (Rock, Metal)
  • Steve Vai (Rock)
  • Joe Satriani (Rock)
  • Steve Ray Vaughan (Rock, Blues)
  • Paul Gilbert (Rock, Metal, Blues)
  • Dimebag Darrell (Metal)
  • Estas Tonne (Classical/Flamenco)

I'm sure you've heard of all of them, or the majority of them, if not, this is a great time to introduce yourself to them, and look them up on Youtube and watch their awesomeness!

What are your influences on the guitar? Why don't you tell us in a comment below, we'd love to know!

Last but Not Least …

Here are some optional items that I was able to find on Amazon that can make your guitar practice a lot more interesting, efficient, and fun! smile

Boost your MORAL with this cool tenacious D tribute green colored pick of destiny

Keep your picks with you whenever you go, right in the credit card slot of your wallet, with style

Hand exerciser, finger stretcher, improve both your hands and fingers’ stamina and strength for guitar playing

Guitar decals to help you remember the keys on the fretboard, to learn more quickly with colors, keys and numbers.

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