How to Practice Guitar and Get the Most Out of It

I think everyone has heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.”

Let’s be real.  If you want to become a better guitar player (or better ‘anything’ for that matter), you must practice!  While this is really important to understand, I’d say it’s equally important that we have productive practices.  Here are some ideas for the way you approach practicing guitar:

1.) Schedule it

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that the busyness of life won’t be sensitive to my music.  In other words, if you don’t schedule a time to practice guitar, it probably won’t happen!  Try to find consistent times in your week (half hour or hour blocks) that you can dedicate to practicing guitar.  Personally, I’ve found that if I do this, I end up practicing a lot more than I would otherwise.

2.) Create a practice space

Don’t just find a time to practice, but also find a place to practice.  Get away from distractions.  Lock yourself away.  Get to a place where you won’t feel self-conscious about making mistakes or trying new things.  I’m a college student and I’ve found that the dorms aren’t the best place to practice!  Too much chaos.  Get away from it!

3.) Set goals and have a plan

One of our readers, John, made a great point in a comment to a previous post, which was also on practice and about my encounter with a guitar sage.  Here’s what he said:

It is important to practice with some type of goal in mind, i.e. learning a new song or group of chords, because practice without having a goal can sometimes be counterproductive. Like, I just find myself playing the same old stuff I learned 20 years ago ’cause it’s comfortable and familiar. I have to remind myself that the point of practice is to get better.  

This is so true.  One question you might be asking though is, “I don’t know what to practice in order to get better!”  I know I’ve asked myself this many times.  I want to get better or increase my skill, but I don’t really know how to go about it.  Something that can help with this is to look into private lessons or online guitar lessons that have a curriculum or lesson plan laid out for you.  

4.) Be patient and persevere

This is the thing.  While practice can be fun, sometimes it is just plain hard work!  If you find yourself getting bored with what you are practicing, make sure you are throwing in a healthy amount of variety into your guitar practicing.  But do expect those times where you don’t really feel like it.  I encourage you to press on though.  You’ll be glad in the future that you stuck through it.

5.) Play what’s familiar

As important as it is to be challenging yourself in new ways on the guitar, do rejoice in what you already know how to play.  Play what’s familiar and what you can play well.  You’ll feel encouraged because it is the fruit of your hard work!

What are ways that help you maximize the effectiveness of your guitar practice times?

About Brett McQueen

Brett McQueen is a musician, songwriter, and the founder and editor of Guitar Friendly and Ukulele Tricks. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @GuitarFriendly.