To get proficient at any instrument, you have to put in hard work, dedication, and focus on refining your skills over time, but if you’re a beginner guitarist, how do you go about setting up a practical but productive practice routine that will help you achieve your goals? This article will share some tips on how to practice guitar effectively so that you get the most out of your time and improve your guitar playing faster.
Table of Contents
1. Know The Difference Between Practice vs. Playing
The very first thing that I recommend to beginners is to understand what it means to truly practice rather than simply playing the guitar.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, and of course, there is a time and place for it – you can improve different skills through things like improvisation and learning your favorite songs; however, there is still a key distinction that everyone must make sure to understand.
When you practice, you have set goals that you’re trying to achieve, and you will perform certain exercises to help you improve specific skills.
For example, you might be just getting started with learning your first chords and the C major scale, and in order to get familiar with the patterns and develop muscle memory, you’ll focus on these for a while, then once you feel comfortable, you’ll move onto something that challenges you more, like learning the major scale in a different key and what chords go with it.
Deliberate practice is about strengthening your weakness and solving the problems you might be experiencing – if you only play without a clear purpose, it’s a lot more difficult to hone in on the issues in your playing and iron them out.
Playing is simply playing for the sake of it. There is no real goal set other than just self-enjoyment, and as mentioned before, this is okay and crucial even.
These principles can be applied to just about anything, including other instruments. You should absolutely make time to play the guitar how you see fit, but you must also practice with intent and conviction to truly improve your guitar skills.
Learn more about this from the perspective of a professional pianist down below:
2. Manage Your Time & Organize Your Sessions
You don’t need to spend several hours practicing guitar every day to get good at it; that’s a total myth, and for beginners, this can be excessive and even lead to burning out.
So, how much should a beginner practice guitar? For most individuals, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour each day is sufficient to develop skills.
It doesn’t sound like that much, but if you divide your time into blocks, it’s extremely efficient, and it adds up.
For instance, if you have about an hour to practice, you could spend 5 minutes warming up, 10min on scale exercises, 10min on chord changes, 10min on rhythm studies, 10min on alternate picking, and the remaining 15 minutes to learn some music theory.
One reason why this is an effective tactic is that the brain starts to drift off and lose focus after a certain amount of time, and by putting your practice into small digestible chunks each day, you’ll be able to allocate your full attention to the task in front of you.
After all, who wants to spend more time trying to achieve the same results as someone who can do it with less?
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can make progress this way, and it’s a strategy that even very advanced players use, especially if they have busy life schedules. There’s a reason it’s the best way to practice guitar, and if you need to, feel free to use a timer to ensure you stay on top of things.
3. Use A Metronome & Log Your Practice
The metronome is every musician’s best friend; not only will it help you develop a stronger sense of rhythm and time, but it can also be a valuable asset in your practice routine because it can help quantify your progress.
Here’s an example – if you started out playing a major scale slowly at around 60 bpm and now, about a month later, you can play it cleanly at 100 bpm, that’s clear progress!
The metronome lets you move the tempo up and down in various increments, but if you’re practicing technique or trying to learn a guitar part, it’s a good idea to start slowly and move the tempo up gradually so that you can reinforce good playing habits and prevent sloppiness.
It helps to keep track of what you’re practicing as well, and I highly recommend finding a place to write everything down.
A basic notebook will work fine, but practice logs designed for musicians are nice too because of the way they’re organized – there will be places to write down what you’re working on, tempo markers, and make notes about how your practice sessions are going.
Being able to see your progress in front of you can be incredibly motivating, and you might even look back at your notes one day and see how far you’ve come. You can also consider recording your guitar playing for this very reason too, so you can visualize how you look while playing the guitar at different stages of your journey.
4. Make Time For Fun & Creativity
It’s essential to dedicate time to practicing the guitar, but it’s also very important to have fun with it too. That’s not to say that practicing can’t be fun and engaging, but just playing to play will keep you inspired and will help encourage musical growth too.
Practicing is supposed to be a means to become more fluent or expressive with your own playing, and what’s the use of all of these exercises if you can’t make use of them. Furthermore, playing on your own terms gives you a way to apply what you’ve learned from exercises in more musical contexts.
Use this time to play however you wish, because you can learn a lot of things that books and exercises can’t necessarily teach you so easily. Performing and enjoying yourself will help develop your musicality and sense of expression faster than anything else.
Some fun ways to let loose and still gain a lot are jamming along to backing tracks, learning new music suitable for your skill level, and even trying to come up with your own parts. Of course, over time, you’ll even get better at these activities too, so in a way, it’s still practicing.
However, as you continue to learn more through your dedicated practice, you’ll notice your overall playing get better – for example, you’ll be able to take on harder songs, improvise more fluidly, and have better chops to open up more doors for you creatively.
5. Be Consistent
Getting good at the guitar requires consistency in your practice. It won’t necessarily be easy, but if you put in the effort to stick with it each day, it will pay off.
It’s always better to practice a bit every single day rather than sporadically, throughout the week; don’t skip sessions if you don’t think you have a lot of time to get anything done and try to make up for it another day.
If you only have 20 minutes to practice, that’s completely fine – as long as it’s good quality practice with focus and the intent to get better, it’s going to do its job.
Six 20-minute sessions throughout the week will be more effective than just having a single two-hour practice. You’ll get a lot more out of those smaller sessions since you’ll be able to practice different material five times rather than only once for a more extended period of time.
Don’t underestimate how much information and motor patterns your brain can build and retain in these short practice sessions. You will improve significantly as long as you’re practicing correctly and making sure to fix mistakes!
It’s also a good idea to practice around the same time to develop a sense of routine, like brushing your teeth. If you have a set time that you like to play, it will be much easier to commit to a guitar practice schedule and get things done.
6. Avoid Distractions
As mentioned earlier, managing your time can definitely help you stay focused on your guitar practice, even when it might feel mindless, but it’s also important to be diligent about minimizing external things that can potentially interrupt you from getting the most from your practice sessions.
For example, if you’re a parent and an adult beginner, you will have family responsibilities, but you can also schedule a time where you’ll be less likely to be interrupted.
On the other hand, if you’re a younger beginner, you’ll probably want to do things like making sure you get your chores and homework done first so that your parents won’t disturb you during your practice.
However, this advice is certainly not limited to beginners; even advanced players don’t want their focus and attention to be broken by things outside of their control. Your time is valuable, and as you become more dedicated to the guitar, you’ll realize the importance of this more than ever.
If you’re using an amplifier to practice, try to be mindful of the noise levels, especially if you plan on playing later at night, so that you don’t upset your family or neighbors. Many practice amps these days have headphone jacks in them so that you can play how you please while also keeping the peace.
It’s also helpful to avoid using your phone for texting and social media and resist the urge to browse the web while you’re practicing unless you have a specific guitar or music-related question that you need an answer to.
Nonetheless, most of the time, it should just be you, your guitar, your metronome, your notes, and possibly your amp and headphones — nothing else.
7. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
As a beginner, you’re probably eager to learn everything you can, and that’s awesome, but this can also lead to you spreading yourself too thin.
Having too much on your plate can also be overwhelming for some people, and this can cause new players not to prioritize the most important things that will help them grow as a player.
When making a practice routine, think of a list of skills you need to work on that you think you can tackle with the amount of time you have to practice each day.
It’s also important to note that you don’t need to think of things to practice every time you sit down. You should try to plan ahead about a week or two in advance so that you can get into a groove, and it’ll be easier to track your progress if you have a set routine for a bit.
It would be best to stick with it for a while to see results in the specific skills you’re trying to improve on, but you can still find ways to alter your practice schedule in a given week, which the next section will cover in more detail.
8. Keep It Interesting
The final tip I have for you to create an effective guitar practice routine is that you don’t necessarily need to practice the same exact material every single day.
For example, on Monday, you might practice scales, chords, theory, picking technique, and reading tabs, but the following day on Tuesday, you could swap out chords for arpeggios and picking techniques with legato alongside bending and vibrato.
Then, on Wednesday, you can simply go back to what you practiced on Monday and keep alternating.
This can help keep things fresh and interesting for you and let you hit different areas of your guitar playing while also giving you additional consistency in your routine.
Remember, though, as you get better at these skills, you’ll need to make adjustments. What might be a weakness now might not be one in a couple of months, so assess how you’re doing and feel free to find new things to improve at to continue staying engaged and grow as a musician.
By following these strategies, you’ll be less likely to hit a rut with your guitar playing. Of course, everyone runs into a wall at some point and will feel like they’re not improving from time to time, but you can do things to prevent that from happening and stay motivated and inspired.
Guitar practice for beginners doesn’t need to be super long and tedious, and hopefully, by reading this article, you’ve learned some handy tips on how to make your practice sessions more approachable and effective at the same time.
As you continue to become a better player, and it doesn’t matter if you play acoustic, electric, or the bass guitar, this advice will still be relevant; the only difference is that your goals will have changed,
Who knows, you might find that you have more time to practice than before because you genuinely enjoy learning your instrument.
With that in mind, I hope that your practice will take you beyond what you thought was possible – you won’t be a beginner for long if you keep at it!