Nine Ways to Practice Like a Pro

A 9-point guideline on how to practice guitar like a pro.

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Ultimate Guitar
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Most of us, at some point have considered practicing boring at some point in our time as a guitarist. Well, turns out if you think practicing is boring, you're not doing it the right way. Correct practice, is fun and directed towards a particular goal of achieving or improving a certain skill. You must focus entirely on your practicing. Here are a few tips and guidelines towards fulfilling and useful practice sessions. Make sure that you follow all of them simultaneously.

1. Know Your Current Skill Level

Practicing correctly involves proper knowledge of your current playing skill and what you hope to achieve with a certain exercise or practice session. You cannot play exercises designed for advanced players in a beginner stage or if you're an advanced player, playing an exercise made for a beginner might be a waste of time. Selecting exercises best suited to your playing skills is very important, and so is setting a realistic goal on what you hope to accomplish from a particular exercise.

2. Set Realistic Goals

Set a proper goal on what you hope to achieve from a certain exercise. I mean, you can't become a guitar god by playing an exercise you find effortless at a slow tempo. You ought to know how much improvement there will be from a certain exercise or practice session. This will prevent disappointment caused by setting unimaginable goals.

3. Practice With Full Focus

The most common reason for finding guitar practice boring or ineffective is when you practice without focus and concentration. If you practice while watching TV, then change your ways immediately. Guitar practice is something that is to be done seriously, with one's full attention and concentration. Otherwise, you'll just be another weak guitarist who dreams of becoming a better player but does nothing to do so. Just make sure that whenever you practice, you do it with full vigor.

4. Challenge Yourself

If you can play a particular exercise too easily and without much effort at a certain tempo, then you're not doing yourself any good. An exercise will only be useful, if it requires a certain degree of effort to play properly. Of course you don't have to play an exercise that is too difficult for your level, but you also can't play something that's too easy for you. Whenever you can perform an exercise at a reasonable level of ease, just increase the difficulty. Progressing as a guitarist is only possible if you constantly raise your level.

5. Don't Rush Into Things

Don't rush into playing at higher BPMs or playing difficult exercises before mastering an easy one first. I've made this particular mistake and if you do the same, you'll just sound sloppy and will be disappointed by your playing. Ensure that you sound fluid and clean before moving on to faster tempos and tougher exercises. Patience is the key here. Moreover, don't compare yourself to other guitarists. Everyone learns at different speeds. In order to get the best from practice, ensure that you are comfortable by your learning pace.

6. Always Practice With a Metronome

Make sure that you always practice with a metronome. It helps to establish a proper sense of rhythm and timing. Plus it's important to maintain the right tempo when playing a difficult exercise. Your playing must be consistent; otherwise, you'll just end up sounding sloppy. And yes, exercises do seem boring when played without a metronome.

7. Playing Songs is Not Practicing

You'll have to understand this one properly. Playing songs is not practicing. Practicing does not include covering or playing songs. Playing songs when you are meant to be practice will only waste your time. You ought to have different time periods for practicing and playing the guitar. Understanding this difference will only do good.

8. Spend More Time Playing Exercises Rather Than Searching for Them

The internet offers a vast resource of exercises which can be easily looked up. But the problem is that many people follow an incorrect method of practicing and then, they blame the exercises. As a result, instead of improving their method and practicing, they look for more exercises, which ironically, they won't use properly either. So, focus more on practicing and playing exercises, rather than searching and searching for the so-called perfect exercise. You'll never find the perfect exercise, you'll just have to step up your game accordingly. 

9. Practice Daily

Always practice the guitar daily, even if someday you're busy and can only play for a short time. Practicing 10 or 15 minutes every day is better than practicing 60 minutes once a week. Try to follow a proper practicing schedule, and don't break that schedule.

Finally, I'd like to say, don't give up practicing just because you don't get the desired results. You just have to correct your method of practicing.

Happy Practicing.

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    VinnyChinny
    Learning a song can be considered practicing especially if you're learning a technique to play the song
    RED777
    @VinnyChinny yes playing songs can be practice but I think what he's talking about is just playing your favorite jams over and over. Which doesn't really improve you as a player if you already know the song.
    MadMan'sDiary42
    I agree. When I'm just jamming to a song I like, I'm not really focusing on my technique, timing, etc. Just little things, like making sure I don't accidentally hit a string I didn't mean to hit, or making sure I'm not cutting my notes too short and that they flow smoothly--these are the last things on my mind when I'm just jamming. To me that's the difference, so like VinnyChinny said, you could definitely use a song as a tool to perfect a technique. And then that would be practicing, in my opinion.
    Pick 'n' Finger
    True, but I think just jamming a song is important for every practice session. You can't just till your soil. You have to reap the fruits sometimes or else it's pointless. Why learning when it's just for your biological archive.
    legendaryjj10
    There's time for both. It's like working out and playing sports. If you take time for both, you'll become more fit which will benefit your playing. If you just play, you'll improve but at a slower pace. If you never play, just work out you probably won't be a very good player but your raw ability will be stronger. It's the same with an instrument. Balance improving your behind the scenes abilities (dexterity, speed, accuracy, rhythm, pitch, etc.) with your musical abilities (tone, timbre, sound, improvisation, musicality, personality, etc.).
    Phable
    The whole practicing/exercise thing is great and all, but I have no motivation to "practice." playing songs may not be considered "practicing" but that doesn't mean it isn't going to make you a better guitarist.
    tehREALcaptain
    great article. except for this line "playing songs is not practicing". the goal isn't to play the guitar, it should be to use the guitar to play music.
    EZVECTOR
    Man when I started playing I would lock myself away for hours ripping into that guitar. I wanted to learn every inch of it. It became an extension of myself. When I wasn't playing it was all I thought about. Holy crap!!! It must be love... Lol
    KungFuRooster
    I remember back when I learned over a hundred songs using this website. While it's not the only form of practice you should limit yourself to, the songs of other bands are one of the most important things you will ever consider. I couldn't write songs now if I didn't practice and study my favorite bands for over ten years. Learn guitar your way, and do whatever it takes to keep your love for it alive. Just don't hurt yourself with poor technique. At the end of the day, what people want to know is: "Where's the song?" The flashiest solo in the world won't cover up an uninspired song. Songwriting is the beginning and the end of music. Clearly define your strongest influences and combine them with who you are as a guitar player, and don't stop searching for new and exciting music.
    afraidtoshoot
    I agree with all of these except number 7. David Gilmour said that the best tip is to imitate. My problem is that there are literally millions of exercises and techniques and I just dont know where to start
    ironicallyindie
    "7. Playing Songs is Not Practicing" great, an article written by someone who probably solos 10 hours a day but doesnt actually play music. playing songs and ****ing around is the only way to practice. playing scales and sweep picking and shit will make you a "good guitarist" to other guitarists, but you won't be able to write any ****ing music that way, and you know, that's your job as a musician, writing songs/music in general. in short, instead of ****ing around playing the same scale runs or whatever, write a ****ing song then rewrite it in flstudio with synths try something new, make some actual music.
    Bobandy
    Years ago when I first became aware of this website and searched day and night for tabs to my favorite songs.. I was playing other peoples songs as practice. It is not the ONLY way you should practice by any means but IT IS practice and it got me to the level I am at today.
    astrocreep71
    practicing 10-15 mins a day is garbage advice. that's useless. you can't even get warmed up properly in that time, let alone, review your last practice, which MUST be done. only then can you evaluate whether or not you need to work at the same level or to advance. take at least an hour. an hour once a week will provide you exponentially more benefit than 15 minutes a day 7 days a week. personally, i'd say an hour a day every day. if your practicing only takes 15 minutes, then jam for 15 minutes, practice again then jam some more. the whole idea is retention of knowledge which comes from advancement of skill level. at 15 minutes a day, you can't even keep up much less advance. if you've advanced every time you practiced, even if you put the guitar down for a year (say for prison or something)with a short warm up, you're already back at the level you were. Trust me on that.
    legendaryjj10
    I think the best time crunch schedule (where time is preciously slim) would be 15-20 minutes a day every day all week and a 60-90 minute session once a week would be a good commitment. The short ones would basically just be pre-planned exercises to run through every day (or alternate exercises by day of the week). The long session would incorporate the short exercise session, but would primarily be mostly practicing parts of songs, improvising, or other "musical" practices.
    Pick 'n' Finger
    Meh I'm mixed on that one. I am currently doing the "one hour per week" stuff (very limited time due to university) and I'm not getting very far. Between the semesters I played something on my guitar regularly (although shorter, because I had no dedicated time window) and I learned a good chunk of the economy picking thing. Also it was much more fun that way in contrast to now when I'm picking up the guitar and I'm like "Meh, do I REALLY have to practice that?". Don't get me wrong though. I enjoy playing the guitar. I'm in a band and I AM having a blast playing guitar, but I rather take sips from the hot mug than chugging it down and waiting until the burning stops. You get my Idea?
    Panasonic3
    Anybody can learn one simple thing in 10 minutes or less, and the guitar is pretty simple. It's more important to keep building at one thing than to irregularly/spasticly dump a bunch of effort into a project or hobby. It won't be pretty otherwise.