Best Guitar Practice Routine

How to Find the Best Guitar Practice Routine

If you’re serious about guitar, you need to develop a practice routine and follow it regularly. Even professional guitar players still have a practice routine. But if you’re new to guitar, you may not know the first steps in developing an effective practice routine. So, where do you start?

Why a Practice Routine Matters

First, why should you have a practice routine in the first place? A practice routine is essential to progressing as a guitar player. You’ll learn all of the different skills and techniques to accomplish your goals, improving your playing.
We all know to practice every day and we know that you have to devote a considerable amount of time to playing guitar. But if your guitar practice routine isn’t up to par, you’re only wasting your time. Many guitar players find it important to plan out their routine, based on factors such as goals and weaknesses.

Qualities of a Guitar Practice Routine

playing guitar

Now that you know there’s such thing as a bad practice routine, what does a good and bad practice routine look like? Let’s break it down with specific examples.

Good

There is no right guitar practice routine. The routine you create depends on the skills and techniques you want to learn and/or perfect.

A great routine also has measurable goals that you set for yourself and you work toward them every day. For example, if you’re a beginner, you will want to practice basic chords and scales every day. But if you’re more advanced, you may want to practice songs you’re writing or work on a setlist for a live show.

Bad

The main quality of a bad practice routine is if you not learning anything new or you’re mindlessly strumming a few chords. Even if you do this for several hours every day, you’re not setting actionable goals and improving as a player. However, many players commonly make this mistake.

Why do players often fall into this trap? The main reason is players get in their comfort zone. This is especially common when you’re an advanced player. You know you need to practice but aren’t sure what else there is to learn, so you focus on strumming a few of your favorite songs and call it a practice session.

A great practice routine is also about focus. Let’s say you need to practice your playing but are instead looking at the newest products offered by your favorite guitar company. Sure, you’re researching the different specs of guitars, but the fanciest guitar won’t mean you’re suddenly an exceptional player.

Put that focus into your goals. Start with a major goal and then focus on smaller goals to get you closer to your major goal. For example, if your goal is to get good enough to play in a band, practice different chords and sharpen up your technique. All of this will make you a more versatile player, so you’ll write great songs and different musicians will want to jam with you.

What to Focus On

playing guitar Routine

While every guitar player has different goals, most players will focus on three core things during their practice session: practice length, specific exercises, and improving technique.

Practice Length

In order to get the best results, you’ll want to play guitar for several hours out of the day. But realistically, many people don’t have the time to commit to practicing. Instead, come up with a goal time for your practice sessions.

A good goal is 60 minutes a day. However, don’t be ashamed if you only get a few minutes in a day. The most important thing is to use this time wisely. You’ll especially want to focus on the next two points.

Lastly, be realistic. If you don’t think you can devote three hours a day to practicing, don’t set that goal. But if you can confidently say you can practice for 15 minutes, then aim for this goal. If you practice more, then all power to you.

Techniques and Skills

In order to improve on guitar, you’ll have to identify the techniques and skills you either want to learn or struggle to learn. You can perfect them with exercises, which we will cover in the next section, but this section will cover how to discover these techniques and skills.

Let’s say you’re trying to solo. There are multiple skills involved in soloing. It’s recommended you separate these skills and focus on them individually before playing your favorite solos. For example, build your speed first. Once you get that down, focus on vibrato and bends.

Some players also find it beneficial to set a goal solo or song.

Listen to the solo and guitar parts closely to identify the different techniques. Look at the tabs (or write down the notes if you want to learn by ear) and learn to play the basic section without the specific techniques. You can also do this with multiple songs you want to learn, just separate them by difficulty and learn the easier ones first.

Exercises

There are countless exercises for many areas of the guitar. When you set your goals or find your weaknesses, it’s recommended you find an exercise to perfect that skill. You can always ask your guitar teacher and guitar friends for recommendations. Otherwise, there’s plenty of information on YouTube and various guitar forums.

Example of a Good Practice Routine

playing guitar

Some guitar players learn better by using recommendations. These are common practice routine examples, separated by difficulty.

Beginner

Most beginners should work on basic playing techniques, such as:

  • Finger stretches and exercises
  • Basic skills (fretting, playing/memorizing open chords, playing without looking, etc.)
  • Finger control
  • Coordination between fretting hand and picking hand
  • Basic riffs/melodies

Focus on each one for at least five minutes, though you may need to devote more time to certain techniques. That’s normal — if anything, a player should diversify their routine and put more time and focus into the areas they’re struggling with.

Either way, this routine will usually take anywhere between 25 minutes to almost two hours, depending on how much time you can devote to practicing.

Intermediate

At this point, you mastered the basic skills and have a better idea of what you want to focus on. You may naturally come up with your own practice routine. You can also follow this one or tweak it to fit your needs.

  • Finger exercises and warm-up drills
  • Learning songs
  • Intermediate techniques (bends/vibrato, hammer-ons, pull-offs, pentatonic scales, other advanced chords, slides, scale runs, etc.)
  • Exercises with these techniques

As an intermediate, you don’t need to devote as much time to individual skills you mastered. For example, you may only need to warm up, such as doing finger stretches/exercises and drills, for a couple of minutes. You should also be devoting more time to your goals. For example, you can put more time into learning your favorite songs so you can perfect your technique.

Intermediate players usually devote more time to playing guitar, on average about an hour or two a day. But even playing for ten minutes a day is better than nothing.

Advanced

Once we get to advanced and beyond, guitarists at this level have a good understanding of their skill and what they need to practice.

You’re likely writing your own music at this point, and it’s important to start practicing the songs you’re writing. If you’re in a band, regularly practicing as a group becomes necessary. Many guitarists may even devote their practice routine to the techniques and skills we mentioned previously. But there’s still a lot to learn and practice at this level, such as:

  • Finger exercises, stretching, and warm-up drills
  • Chord progression and other advanced theory practices
  • Practicing songs
  • Playing both lead and rhythm guitar parts
  • Writing better songs
  • Practicing own songs
  • Jam with your band or other musicians

As with the intermediate level, at this point, you’re devoting a significant amount of time to guitar. For many, this may equate to at least four hours a day and even more. Of course, life happens, and there may be a few days where you only practice a half hour. Don’t let that dissuade you, just be sure to identify your goals and cover the most important parts of your practice routine.

Expert/Professional/Master

I’m lumping these levels in the same category because, well, you probably don’t need help with a practice routine at this point.

It took you several years to get to this level and you learned a lot about guitar and your playing in those years. As you know, practice is even more crucial at this point. You’re heavily involved with a band, regularly playing shows and writing music. You may even be touring. Still, here’s a sample routine that you can compare with yours:

  • Warm-up with scale patterns
  • Learn new songs and riffs from a variety of music genres
  • Practice your band’s setlist and/or new songs

While life happens, it’s best to devote a significant of time to play. While a couple of hours is ideal, if you get an hour of practice a day then you’re still on the right track. When practicing with your band, definitely aim to practice about four or five hours at a time. Most bands practice once a week, and more frequently for show rehearsals and recording preparation.

Additional Tips

guitar learning

A practice routine isn’t as cut-and-dry as these examples. Guitarists have learned a lot in these years. It’s recommended you take these tips from the pros into consideration.

Play to a Click Track

A click track (the more formal name is a metronome) will ensure your playing is smooth and you’re staying in time. As a beginner, a click track will improve your timing so your playing isn’t rusty. Click tracks also help you better control your speed and are a great tool if you’re trying to increase your playing speed.

Another reason why click tracks are great for beginners is they prepare you for playing with a drummer and even a bass player. Click tracks are also commonly used in the recording studio, so using one now can help improve your expertise.

Play at Varying Speeds

While a common goal is building speed, you’ll want to ensure your playing is tight at all speeds. You may think your slow-playing speed is at expert level, you’ll be surprised at how difficult transitioning is. Instead of only focusing on playing fast, focus on playing at varying speeds. This way, you’ll master playing at all speeds.

Train Your Eyes and Your Ears

With this section, it’s best to improve your ear as well as your ability to read music — and not just tab.
First, let’s cover ear training, which is a common technique that many guitar players want to learn. Ear training refers to identifying different notes on the guitar with your ear. This will improve your ability to learn songs.
Why not simply learn songs by reading tab? Let’s give this situation as an example. Say you join a band. The band has at least an album’s worth of material for you to learn, but they never took the time to translate their material to tab. In order to learn the band’s music, you have to learn it by ear.
In addition, training your ear has other benefits. For example, you can tune your guitar without using a tuner.
If learning by ear is so important, why also mention you should improve your ability to read tab and notation? Tab, in particular, is essential for beginners. You can easily learn your favorite songs without learning by ear.
But you should also learn notation (also called sheet music). Notation is essential to learning chords. You’ll learn the chords faster which will help you advance and even write your own music. Many music writing platforms also use notation, which will help you compose.
Devote your practices to perfecting both skills. Something that musicians like to do is first learn a song by ear, then reading the tabs. For notation, try and find a song in notation rather than settling on tab.

Learn New Chords and Scales

Music theory is endless and there are various chords and scales that you likely don’t know. Learning new chords and scales not only enhances your knowledge of theory but also helps you write better songs and solos and improves finger techniques. You’ll always play the right melodies over the corresponding rhythmic parts and will help you master composition.

Record Yourself

While it may seem cringy, recording your practice sessions is invaluable. You’ll be able to identify the places where you mess up and how you can improve. Saving your recording files will also help you see how much you’ve progressed.

Recording yourself is now easier than ever. Most smartphones have an audio recording app. If the app doesn’t record high-quality audio, invest in a better recording system.

It’s also recommended you record videos of yourself playing. Again, it’s cringy watching yourself on video, but you’ll be able to see your fingering techniques and hand positioning better. Again, most phones can record video. You can also record yourself on your laptop or webcam.

What If You’re Stuck?

There may come a time when you’re completely stuck on creating or changing a practice routine. Don’t worry, there are many things you can do to improve your routine.

Ask a Guitar Teacher

If you’re taking lessons already, your teacher should be the first person you should ask. They will help guide you in the right direction.

For starters, they will identify any weaknesses and will offer some exercises to do to improve. Your guitar instructor will also teach you about discipline, so you can create a guitar practice schedule. Even if you’re an intermediate player or an advanced player taking a masterclass, your instructor can teach you new skills that you can add to any practice routine.

Read Guitar Forums

From Reddit to specific guitar brands, you can find guitar forums all over the internet. Let’s put it this way: if you have a question, someone else likely had the same question. It’s worth it to first check guitar forums and see what other players have said.

Here’s a good thread on the Telecaster forum. The original poster (OP) mentions the areas they want to work on and the amount of time they can devote to playing.

The commenters had some phenomenal advice. Since the OP already set their goals, many commenters told the OP to write down their goals (one specifically said write them digitally but there’s nothing wrong with writing them down by hand) and check off the areas they accomplished.

What if you’re unsure about your goals? Don’t feel embarrassed to post a thread admitting this. Ask for recommendations on how to start a practice routine. It is useful to give the other users some information, such as the skill level you’re at, what you already know, and how long you have/can practice daily.

Go on YouTube

Like forums, you can find countless videos on YouTube. Many well-known guitar YouTubers demonstrate exercises you can do and some even make videos about their own guitar practice routine. It’s also worth it to read the comments section on videos to see what other players have to say about their advice and if they offer more insight.

One channel that people recommend is Bernth. Bernth is an Austria-based guitar player who also composes his own music and offers masterclasses.

His content varies; he posts beginner-friendly videos such as developing the right picking technique as well as more advanced techniques, such as this video where he plays 323 notes in 20 seconds! Even in this video, he offers the tab at the bottom so you can learn the notes he’s playing and try playing them in 20 seconds, too.

Even if you’re an advanced guitar player, you can watch Bernth’s videos to challenge yourself and set goals you may not have considered before.

Another guitar genius YouTuber I like is Shredmaster Scott. He posts a variety of educational videos that are absolutely hilarious and entertaining. In addition to his videos, he also has a Patreon page where you can view more lessons as well as any exercises and sheet music he mentions in his videos.

While his antics are enjoyable for anyone, he’s an extremely skilled musician with excellent knowledge of theory. He explains and demonstrates these concepts in a way that’s easy for anyone, even beginners (or n00bs, as he calls them). Many guitar players have learned different songs and techniques from him, so he’s worth checking out.

Talk to Other Guitar Players

If you have friends who also play guitar, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask about their daily practice routines. This is recommended if you admire one particular guitar player. Asking about their practice routine will help you understand why they’re so good and what you can do to get to their level.

Another piece of advice is to reach out to other guitar players who specialize in different genres. For example, if you play metal, ask your jazz guitar friend about their practice routine. Their practice routine is probably significantly different than that of other metal guitar players, and you learn even more new skills and techniques.

If you don’t ask for a specific routine, at least identify areas where you want to improve and how your friends can help.

For example, if you know you want to improve your picking technique, ask other guitar players for their advice. If you’re more advanced, maybe ask about practicing to play live. Even asking for general advice, such as how to improve your focus when practicing, will drastically help.

FAQs

Question: Should Your Practice Routine Be Balanced?

Answer: A balanced practice session means you devote the same amount of time to all of the areas you want to cover. This may include scales, chords, theory, technique, picking, and more. The argument is that balancing your practice will make you a well-rounded guitar player.

But should your routine be balanced? If you’re trying to cover all of the bases, sure. But if there’s something you need to focus on, then devote most of your practice to improving that skill. However, you also shouldn’t forget about other crucial areas you need to cover. Focus on perfecting that skill for a few weeks. Once you improve, start balancing your routine again.

You also shouldn’t add things to your practice that you don’t care about. For example, playing open chords is great for beginners and is a good warm-up drill for intermediate players. But if you don’t plan on playing open chords forever, cut them out of your routine altogether. Even if you were using them to warm up, you can find better warm-up exercises.

Question: When Should You Change Your Practice Routine?

Answer: As you can see from the previous examples, there will come a time when you’ll change your practice routine. When should that happen?

Change up your practice routine when you start advancing. Let’s give that previous example where you’re trying to learn or improve your soloing. You’ll first practice bends and may spend a few weeks perfecting them. Once you feel like you mastered the vibrato, you can move on to another challenge.

However, there are some core aspects that won’t change. These include your finger stretches and exercises as well as certain warm-up drills. Your warm-up drills may change down the line, but you should never forget to stretch and exercise your fingers before playing.

Bottomline

Practice makes perfect, right? We all know this to be true, especially if you’re learning guitar.

A practice routine will target areas of weakness and will make you a better-rounded player. But how do you create an effective practice routine? Identify the techniques and skills you want to learn and find exercises for them. While playing for several hours a day is ideal, set a goal playing time each day that’s realistic and matches your priorities.

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