Would your guitar playing become a lot easier if you knew precisely what you should practice to achieve the results that you want? Do you feel pulled in dozens of different directions by books, videos and other guitar learning resources that all seem to offer a unique way of learning guitar? Are you confused about what to practice to become the musician you want to be?
From my experience of successfully helping hundreds of guitarists to reach their musical goals, I have found that most guitar players can easily find lots of general guitar practice materials on their own. Where many guitarists struggle is in knowing how to make sense out of all those materials and organize them into an effective guitar practice schedule.
If you can relate to the experiences above, then you are not alone. Fortunately, the solution to this problem is very realistic and is easier than you think. In this article I want to show you why so many guitarists don't know what they should practice on guitar, and how you can begin making much more progress in your guitar playing.
One of the most common reasons why guitarists don't make a lot of progress with various guitar exercises is because they try to work on way too many materials at once. As a result, a lot of time is wasted on randomly moving from one exercise to the next rather than focusing on each exercise in the most effective way possible. The truth is that you can often improve your guitar playing faster by practicing a smaller group of guitar exercises that are organized in a strategic way as opposed to trying to cram in as many exercises as possible into every guitar practice session.
Another mistake guitar players make is "putting the cart before the horse", by looking for guitar exercises to practice before defining specifically what it is they want to achieve in their guitar playing. Remember that guitar exercises are only useful when they are practiced with intention of achieving a specific result. Going through dull repetitions of random guitar practice exercises (as most guitarists do) will have little to no impact on your guitar playing unless you become clear on the following:
1. Your long term guitar playing goals and how the exercise you are working on will help you to get closer to becoming the musician you want to be.
2. The "precise" guitar playing skill (or problem) that you are attempting to improve by practicing a given guitar exercise.
Above all, you must remember that the only reason why guitar exercises are needed in the first place is to help you solve various guitar playing problems. As simple as this concept is, most guitar players do not practice with this understanding in mind. The more specifically you can define your guitar playing problems, the easier it will be to find the most effective exercises to overcome them. For instance, rather than saying: "I want to increase my speed with scale sequences", you need to identify an exact problem such as: "I need to practice the picking hand motion that happens when my pick is caught inside the strings".
If you are feeling frustrated from not knowing which guitar exercises to focus your practice time on, ask yourself the following question: "what skill is this exercise helping me develop or what specific guitar playing problem am I trying to solve by practicing this exercise?" If you can't answer this question, then here are 4 critical things you must do to get more from your guitar practicing:
1. Clearly define your long term guitar playing goals.
2. Find out what musical skills you must develop in order to achieve the long term result that you want. To see an example of how to do this, study this free resource on how to play guitar better.
3. With the clarity you have achieved from doing steps 1 and 2 above, it will now be much easier to narrow down your guitar practice exercises to those that are very specific to your guitar playing challenges. Do this to prepare yourself for step 4.
4. Learn how to create the most effective guitar practice schedules. To do this, you must know how to efficiently divide your guitar practice time among the exercises that you have selected in Step 3. This will help you to avoid wasting valuable practice time and will enable you to make faster progress. If you have difficulty with doing this on your own, read this page about building a guitar practice regimen.
Keep in mind that ultimately it is you who is responsible for the results you experience in your guitar playing. Even after you have correctly put together the list of effective guitar practice exercises, you must remind yourself to stay focused at all times on the specific problem you are trying to solve while practicing. Don't allow your hands (or your mind) to go on autopilot. As you begin to practice in this way, you will most likely notice that some guitar exercises can often be used to develop multiple skills simultaneously (watch this video about guitar practice techniques to see how to do this).
If you study guitar with an experienced guitar teacher (someone who has already taught many people to play guitar well), he/she should already be aware of the ideas described above and should be helping you to practice guitar in this way. However, if you have been struggling with knowing what and how to practice on guitar, implement the ideas that you have just learned into your guitar playing and watch your rate of progress take off like never before!
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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