I've been playing on and off for a few years, and looking back, my strategy could have been a lot tighter.

I've always been eager to find new ways to practice, better use my time, and make more tangible progress. Part of that is understanding how, over the course of months and years, other guitarists develop their own skills. I'd love to see some of the more experienced players around here break down their own learning history.

In broad strokes, my history was something like this:

- I spent the first year learning the basics, like open chords, barre chords, minor pentatonic positions, basic legato techniques, etc. I spent a lot of time improvising with the minor pentatonic over backing tracks and songs, but I never really broke out of those box shapes.

- Later in my first year I started learning chord-driven pop songs, basically played campfire style -- strumming chords and singing. I didn't "learn" much from this, but it helped with my technique in terms of tempo and accuracy.

- In my second year I started getting serious about voicings, learning 3-string triads and inversions, and starting to learn more about drop-2 jazz chords. Voice leading became an interest in my chord progressions.

- Late in my second year/early in my third I started trying to learn solos, such as the famous Cream "Crossroads" solo, to expand my lead technique.

- Now I find myself really getting into how arpeggio shapes and arpeggiated triads can be worked into my lead playing to help break up the boring scale-based patterns I'm usually stuck with. This means I'm also taking theory more seriously, trying to actively use the shapes of chords within the key as a basis for solo melody ideas, rather than just going by ear so much.
Last edited by adrienfr at Apr 11, 2014,
I took guitar lessons from a great guitar player.

I practiced continuously...still do.
Last edited by AngryHatter at Apr 11, 2014,
Quote by vayne92
I don't really see any merit in this thread..

Jesus Christ, the amount of needlessly dickish responses I've seen on this message board has got to rival just about any site on the internet. Pat yourselves on the back for that. (Meanwhile, by the way, a thread called "When did you become good?"--of not-at-all questionable "merit"--is 5 pages strong.)

Anyway, I actually am willing to defend the idea for this thread simply because I'd personally like to see the responses and think it'd be helpful for others as well.

For a long time I got caught up in excessively practicing mechanical stuff; endless scale runs, chord drills, etc. I have very little to show for it and consider a lot of that time wasted, but since I really started forcing myself to practice songs, solos, lead licks, etc., I'm making progress a lot faster. At the same time, however, there's still a certain amount of room for drills and isolated technique practice. It's always going to be a balancing act.

I think that by seeing how other people have approached practice over the course of years (or a career, or a lifetime), we can all get a better idea of how time is ideally spent. There are a lot of threads asking specific questions about practice, and everyone has a "practice routine" to share, but I've yet to see anyone discuss how this routine evolved over the course of years. I think this is a valuable perspective.
Quote by adrienfr
Meanwhile, by the way, a thread called "When did you become good?"--of not-at-all questionable "merit"--is 5 pages strong.

Yep, and my exact response to that thread was this:

Quote by vayne92
Why did you revive this..

This thread is terrible.

No need to get your jimmies so rustled. It's not like i openly called the thread terrible, i just said i fail to see the merit in it.
Last edited by vayne92 at Apr 11, 2014,
I started iproving much faster, as a musician, when I mainly focused on learning songs, and not the exercises. I no longer do exercises, because musical stuff I'm learning for me actualy are exercises. But I'm still thinking in a terms of long term goals, and that's a;ways a must. So I am looking songs that I like, and which have techniques that I seek to improve. That way I'm slowly, but constantly improving my chops, and I improved in terms of composing, since I get a lot more influences. I believe, the more you learn, the easier will be to compose original music, which is, as I strongly believe, the whole point of playing. So, also, I started to write riffs I hear in my head more often. When I started to write as much as I can, I found that I also need to practice the stuff I wrote, if I want higher tempos, etc, so you also technicaly progress with your practicing your own stuff.
- learnt gay simple plan songs and awesome nirvana songs on the very first day.

- for about 7 years after that didnt make any more progress than i did on the first day
coz i just wrote riffs on guitar pro and practiced/played em.

- last year totally decided to learn soloing coz i'd been playing for 8 years and couldnt solo.... got a bit far, then broke my finger.

- 5 weeks ago i started seriously practicing.

- now i can almost shred!

- next step.... get really fat, curl my hair up, dress like a classical composer, learn the harmonic minor scale, change my name to soundsteen, rule the world! MUAHAHAHA
oh also somewhere in there add --- make others look like noobs in interviews.

I was mistaken by listening to the other folks claiming I should first start with classical guitar to get my hand get used to guitar and then switch to electric guitar. But I did learn some finger style tricks which made it easier for me as I advanced. So here we go:
-Took group courses for classic guitar from a decent singer/guitarist in my country.
-Figured it was not the thing I wanted since it was a pop guitar course.
-Bought an electric guitar from a friend for 30-35$. Spent around 150$ to make it a viable guitar to be played.
-Dived into stuff life Metallica,System Of A Down and failed.
-Started playing simpler and combining the music theory I know with other knowledge.
-Found Guthrie Govan.
-Picked up my guitar and played whatever the hell I wanted/sounded good to me in the name of improvisation.
I dropped out of my university and had a lot of time to fill... So I bought a black acoustic guitar (think of a cheap knock off version of the guitar from The Pick of Destiny movie) and my journey began.

First 6 months: I learned everything I could about guitar. I played for hours (3-6) every day and found it very rewarding and within a couple months, was easily playing some of my favorite punk songs (offspring, green day, sum 41, nirvana, etc)

Then, I bought an electric guitar. For the next 6 months, I almost exclusively played on that thing. I practiced scales, alt picking, down picking, and tons of easy power chord songs like ACDC, metallica (black album) and classic rock stuff.

1 year in, I started playing with a friend and he taught me (more) advanced acoustic songs like the entire tenacious d self titled album. I took that drive and decided to start learning difficult metal riffs. Between year 1-2 I learned riffs from my favorite songs like stricken, master of puppets, the end of heartache, happy, halo, the trooper and hallowed be thy name.

At this time I also worked on getting my speed up by practicing alt picking patterns with a metronome and even started sweep picking. I spent months perfecting little things like bends, pinch harmonics, and a couple taps.

Year 2-4 was all about being in a band. All the out of time flaws, all the sour notes, and all the bad crap you don't realize when you play by yourself for a couple years was now out in the open for everyone to hear. Playing with a full band makes you realize how much you suck, and it forces you to get better. I grew as a guitar player VASTLY when playing with a drummer and a crazy lead guitarist. He was so much faster than me and he could just improvise riffs or solos all day. I felt like I had to bring my A game every single day. This is where I learned to improvise rhythm guitar and write songs. Probably the most important learning time as a guitarist for me.

Somewhere in year 4, my band fell apart. Even though we had hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of practice, we never played publicly more than 3 times. Every single time was a huge money sink and there were constantly problems with sound, amps, mics, or instruments (this is where KISS:KeepItSimpleStupid comes from). Still, every time was fun and we loved to jam it out in our crappy little storage unit with everything turned up to 11.

Year 5 I took off and learned the harmonica as well as practiced singing a lot. I really learned to enjoy the campfire songs since all I had to focus on was the singing (by year 5, open chords, barre chords, and even little fills are second nature) and only really played guitar to teach others or when I was at someones house and was bored. I still bring my Jazz III picks with me everywhere, so if there is a guitar leaning against a wall unused, I would still play it.

Year 6. I am currently in year 6 and after learning countless songs, solos and musical theory over the years, I now only really enjoy writing my own stuff or jamming with others. I am at a point where playing by myself is very boring unless I'm practicing singing. I have been working on my improvisation, as that is the weakest part of my guitar playing. I am at a point where playing rhythm in any band is very simple and I can even sing while cranking out a thrash riff. Just working on adding blues improvisation lines to everything I hear. Working on the "tasty" guitar licks, as I worked ass backwards and learned speed my first 2-3 years and now need to greatly improve in improvisation and musicality in solos.

Anyways, lessons learned but I am very happy with where I am at. It's always important to work on where you feel you are the weakest, and I wanted to type this because a lot of people say stupid comments like "you can't play master of puppets (or whatever hard riff) up to speed without decades of work put in". That's all lies and crap. 'They' would need decades of work to play something like that, but I think 'they' don't have a true passion for the guitar. With a true passion, you can be rocking hard in no time. Perfect practice makes perfect.
Interesting question as I have been interested in guitar playing since 1988 or something and it was the year I got my very guitar a Jasmine S60 acustic that I still have.

At the time I took a few lessons but I did not have any ideas of where to go and neither did my teacher but I learned a few licks which is still there if I decide to play them. Smoke on the water on the low E came from that time. Just the main riff.

By 1989-1991 I was in a school with a lot of city kids and different music was around. I got into the metal of the time like Metallica, Death, SOD, DRI, some Iron Maiden and so forth. The electric guitar and riffs/solos seemed to be the way to to go with a guitar.

After 1991 I saved up for my first electric Applause Stratocaster in black and I got 2 tab books by Metallica which was kill'em'all and black album. So the journey began learning my favorite parts and understanding how tab connects with the actual music. Not always sounding right I learned but it was at least a starting point.

By 1992-3 I had moved to a city from the contry area so I had better exposure to music outlets for records and cd's. A store for sheet music and tab books and a store with instruments/amps etc which was pretty big for the area. As I was paid for going to school I quickly worked out the deals to get more gear with the instrument store and pretty soon had amps and better guitars around me.

One day I was sitting in instrument store playing through a little combo amp and this young guy walked in looking around. He then asked me if I could suggest a good guitar and pointed out to the white PRS that had been there for a while located on a shelf.

We exchanged contact as he was visiting Denmark but Danish and started to send cassette tapes to one another for the next 2 years back and forth.

Then the hunt for what I really wanted began which was a US Jackson original Rhoads. The ideas were sat due to a catalog but no Jacksons in Danish stores as a rule. At the time I had a Gibson Explorer that I was not using much and the only offer was a straight trade for a homebuilt stratocaster with a US Fender Clapton maple neck.

Getting into Jimi Hendrix made that trade but playing it? Not the most easy thing in the world when you are not into progressing practise with a metronome so it sounds accurate and clean. Its to bright and clear! I still custimized it and by 2000 I had found what I was lookng for in terms of sounds of sort.

My US Jackson RR came from the US custom shop (6000$)in december 1996 after 5-6 months waiting and it was love at first sight.

By 2000 I got into vintage amps and got a Marshall Major 1971 head from the US and found a Marshall JMP 2104 combo in the UK on my summer holiday I just had to buy.

I had to main areas of tone to go for which was the old Marshall rock with or with out a fuzz box but also the Metallica rhytm crunch so when a Quad Mesa pre amp turned up I got it and for higain it is amazing enough.

I found that when I played in bands which started in 2001 I kind of progressed guitar wise not just learning the songs as I had mostly allready got knowledge of them allready to play them decently. We practised and I would improvise the leads when I could as I had no one saying I should playing the same shit over and over espically when the same song was rehearsed 4-5 times in a row.

After that I got a Jimi Hendrix cover band going and after 2 tries I had a great sounding lineup and we jammed for 2 years or so. As it was Jimi I used my Stratocaster and in the process I got very used to playing it.

So playing wise I got Jimi and rock kind of to a point and out of the system as done that. Where to go? Well I still got a huge pile of tab books including Speed Mechanics by Troy Stetina and I do like Yngwie Malmsteens first solo album Rising force from 1984.

That is what I am currently working on with a metronome and it is slowly going forward getting both hands working together learning the songs and the basic skills from SM is a good combination for me.