Develop a Good Guitar Practice Routine

I get asked all the time by my private students, “What should my practice routine look like?”  The answer is different for every person.  As a private guitar teacher, it is my job to help each of my students develop that routine.

I always tell my guitar students that 15-20 minutes a day, 5 to 6 days a week is what they should aim for when starting out.  I know life has lots of demands for us and it can be hard to find time to practice, but if you want to develop your guitar skills, this is about the minimum.  If you have 3 or 4 hours a day to play, go for it!  You will only achieve your goals quicker.  Unfortunately most of us, myself included, find it difficult to devote that much time to the guitar.

Practice routines are different for each person and are ever changing.  In the early stages of learning, I have my students work on chord formations and changing between chords.  If you are a learning a song that uses the chords G, D and C, then work on changing between those chords in the order of the song.  Have a strum pattern that goes with that tune?  Practice that strum pattern in isolation of your chord changes until you have the changes down solid.

Just learned a new song but one part is giving you the fits?  Isolate that one section and play it over and over as slowly as necassary to get it right.  The trick here is the isolation.  Playing the parts that you already know is not practice.  That is playing.  There is a difference between playing and practicing.

Working on your Blues improvisation?  Take 2 or 3 licks and play them over a jam track and see how many different variations of those licks you can create.

The point is, look at where you are at in your development and what you have set to work on currently or what your instructor is having you do.

Using some of the above examples and let's say a 30 minute “practice session” you could break your time out like this-

  • 2 minutes chromatic warmup exercise
  • 5 minutes chord changes between G, D and C
  • 3 minutes isolated strum pattern practice with muted strings
  • 5 minutes working on “trouble spots” in the song you have been learning
  • 10 minutes learning new piece of music
The trick is not to get too many different things going at once.  Get your warmup done then only have 3 or 4 different things.  Too many different practice items will lead to unfocused practice.
What about the stuff you have already learned?  I think its important to keep a solid repertoire.  When someone asks you to play something, you are able to strum a quick tune or bust out a couple of cool licks for them.  What I would suggest is once or twice a week, use your practice time to play through the stuff  you already know.  Not only is this fun and will keep you motivated but it will keep those tunes fresh for you.
Be sure to log your progress each day as you can see what you need to continue to work on as well as look at the fantastic progress you have made.

Be sure to check out Marty Schwartz and his online guitar lesson site, GuitarJamz as he has a lot of great video guitar lessons on practicing the guitar and some of the other techniques that were discussed in this post.