Mike Philippov is a professional guitar player, recording artist and guitar/music teacher. His guitar practice columns about learning to play guitar are read by guitarists worldwide.
His instructional music web site PracticeGuitarNow.com contains advice for guitar players on overcoming the most common problems faced when learning to play guitar.
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If there is "one" thing about guitar practicing that is "most important", it’s that there is NO single "right" guitar practice method. In order to overcome a variety of guitar practice problems and reach a wide range of musical goals, you need to use multiple effective approaches to see results in the shortest amount of time.|
To help you maximize your guitar practice efficiency and effectiveness, read below to learn 7 of the best guitar practice tips and strategies to use to become a better guitarist right now.
1. Discover The Reasons Behind Your Guitar Playing Challenges
The single most important thing you must learn to do if you want to get consistent results from your guitar practice is to learn to identify the sources of all guitar playing problems you face. Most commonly, guitarists aren’t able to specifically pinpoint the exact reasons why they struggle to play something on guitar, and at best they are only vaguely aware that some problem "exists". In order to get crystal clear about what is causing you to struggle to play something, make the challenging part even more difficult by making greater demands on your picking hand or fretting hand (or both). This will bring the problem (or problems) into clearer focus. Check out the video below where I demonstrate an example of one of the ways to do this on guitar.
To learn more about the practicing approach described in the video, visit this page about guitar practice advice.
2. Track How Much Progress Is Being Made In Your Guitar Playing
Ultimately, you need to know whether or not your guitar practicing efforts are bringing you the results you want. You will need to measure not only the obvious skills (such as your speed of playing with a metronome) but also the intangible areas of your creativity, improvising and phrasing. One of the ways you can track your progress with the latter areas is by recording yourself and listening to your playing over time.
Knowing how well your guitar playing is improving will let you know if/when anything needs to be adjusted to make your guitar practicing more effective. Unfortunately, few guitar players ever track their progress "over time" (that means consistently) and this is one of the main reasons why most have no idea what they need to do to start seeing greater results in their guitar playing.
3. Know What You Are Going To Achieve Each Time You Pick Up The Guitar To Practice
To maximize your guitar practice results, you need to start each session by clearly defining specific results you intend to reach when you are done practicing. This will help your concentration to stay high and will direct all your efforts towards making that goal a reality. Doing this will help you to keep track of your results and know exactly what aspects of your practicing may need to improve or be refined further.
4. Learn How To Create Guitar Exercises Out Of Everything You Practice
When you find yourself struggling to play something on guitar, there are often a variety of reasons why that is the case. However, most people simply "assume" (or guess) what the problem is and therefore are not likely to find the correct solutions to their challenges.
To prevent this, make exercises out of the very music you are learning on guitar. Isolate the sections that are challenging to play and treat them as "exercises" for improving your general guitar playing. This is a much more efficient way to allocate your limited practice time.
To be clear, I am not implying that you must abandon all guitar exercises you practice, I'm only saying that most of the time you already have the exact exercises you should be working on within the songs and solos you are practicing.
5. Practice For Greater Efficiency In Your Picking Hand Technique
You will always improve in every aspect of your guitar playing by making your picking hand technique better - no matter how advanced your guitar technique is right now. The single fastest way to do this is to learn how to make your picking motions very efficient and economical (without sacrificing tone). To see an effective practicing approach for developing this skill, study this guitar picking techniques video.
6. Have A Clear Vision For "How" EVERY Practice Item Is Helping Your Guitar Playing
Most guitar players have no shortage of "exercises to practice", but few guitarists ever give much thought to the role each of those items plays on their musical development. To test if you are one of such guitarists, go through your list of practice items and ask: "What is this doing for my guitar playing?" for every exercise. Like most players you will likely find that you are not able to clearly articulate the reasons why you are spending time on certain guitar practice materials. This leads to several problems:
To solve this problem once and for all, ask yourself the basic test question for every exercise you plan to include into your practicing to determine how much it is helping you to progress towards your ultimate goals.
- Lack of clarity over your rate of musical improvement. When you are not sure what results you should be expecting, it becomes impossible to measure them.
- Slow overall progress. Since you never took the time to select specific exercises for your "specific" guitar challenges, any results that come from your practicing happen largely on a "hit-or-miss" basis.
7. Group All Guitar Exercises By The Goal They Help You Work Towards
To maximize your rate of progress on guitar, you must break down your guitar playing goals into a series of steps to go through in order to achieve your objectives. To increase your efficiency in going through this process, you must sort all guitar practice items you are working on into groups based on what result they help you to achieve. This is important for a number of reasons:
Armed with what you have learned from this article, begin using these strategies in your guitar practice sessions, starting TODAY! If you are consistent in applying this guitar practice advice into your playing, you will soon see your results on guitar and your confidence in your ability to reach your goals improve like never before.
- You will be growing in several simultaneous areas of guitar playing in an intelligent and predictable (rather than "random") way. By knowing exactly what skills a certain guitar practice item is helping you improve, you will be less likely to end up out of balance in your playing.
- Having the clarity described above will help you to avoid making your practicing a monotonous process. If you have multiple exercises in each group, you can rotate between them at any time, keeping your practicing focused on the same general objectives without spending too long on any single item.
Additional Columns by Mike Philippov