The How Of Practicing

Practice. There's always a lot of discussion about "what" to practice, but you
should also consider "how" to practice. Here are some things I've discovered
to be valuable.


Be realistic about the amount of time you can practice each day and what you want to

  • Write a list of your goals.
  • Work out what you need to practice to achieve them.
  • Decide what's most important now, and make a start.

Remember that this is a lifelong thing. You don't have to do it all by next week.

Consistency. Persistence. Motivation.

Keeping motivated is hard. Especially as most things you practice will only start to
bear fruit after many months. But persistence and consistent practice is the key to
achieving your goals.

One great piece of advice that keeps me motivated is to "practice what you
love". We can't practice everything - focus on the things you really enjoy

Healthy practice

We are upper body athletes, and need to treat our practice sessions as seriously as
any other athlete regards their training sessions.

  • Warming up (check out the BAPAM warmup exercises).
  • Drinking plenty of water whilst practicing.
  • Do stretches after the session.
  • Stand up to practice sometimes. Not only does it prepare you better for gigs,
    but it also helps to counteract poor seated posture.

If you are having problems, you might want to check out the Alexander Technique.

Use a metronome

Wherever possible. (That means just about all the time). Work on your sense of time
and groove as you practice other material.

Plug in

Playing electric guitar "acoustically" might keep the neighbours happier, but
you'll find you tend to pick harder...

The Internet

All the information and material you could ever need is available somewhere on the
Internet. This is both good and (mainly) bad.

  • There is a very real danger of becoming overwhelmed and thinking that you
    somehow have to keep up with it all.
  • The key to making fast progress is how to apply and integrate this material into
    your playing. The raw information itself is useless without this.


  • Turn off your phone.
  • Log off the Internet and Facebook.
  • Find somewhere quiet to practice.
  • You might even start by meditating for a few minutes to get focused.

Don't be distracted from your goals by what your friends are practicing, or that
latest cool guitar DVD, or something you found on YouTube.

Remember that this is between you and the instrument. Don't worry about what
anyone else is working on or doing. Take it at your own pace.

The perils of study

It is easy to get trapped in a cycle of studying all the time and being a

  • Remember to take time every day to just "play".
  • You should actively seek "your" music: what is that unique thing that you
    have to say on your instrument?

The most important tip for practicing is simply this:

Turn Up and Do It.

Dylan Kay is a professional guitarist and teacher based in Auckland, New Zealand. Originally from the UK, he has been teaching professionally for nearly 20 years, including many years at the Guitar Institute in London.

Educated at Berklee College of Music, the Guitar Institute and Oxford University, he's been lucky enough to have studied with some of the world's finest guitar educators. He has performed extensively in the US and throughout the UK leading his own bands and performing with others, everywhere from small cafes and bars through to theatres, clubs, festivals and the 02 Arena in London.

Dylan Kay