An Example Beginner Practice Session

This lesson details an example beginner guitar session. It shows you some specific things to practice and for how long you should aim to practice.

Ultimate Guitar
The questions I always hear asked by beginner guitarists is What should I practice? and How should I practice? These two questions are always met with similar responses like It depends on you as a player or It depends on what level your at or practice all the things you need to practice etc. These responses just leave the beginner disheartened and bewildered.

In this lesson I aim to answer the most commonly asked beginner question What/ how should I practice? by actually delivering an example practice session. The session detailed will be aimed toward a beginner with a month or two of practice under their belt. It certainly won't suit everyone's needs, but I can at least hope that it will give some beginners a basic idea of what they should be doing. So without further ado, lets dive in. (Before starting I should mention that this is suitable for both acoustic/ electric guitars).

Firstly you should make sure your guitar is in tune. (You should always do this before starting a practice session.). So go on, make sure your guitar is tuned up and is sounding sweet. (I have an electric guitar tuner which is great for quickly getting the guitar in tune. It's a pretty good investment for a beginner guitarist.)

That's better. Now, the next thing you want to do is warm up. A warm up is essential for making sure that when you begin the actual practice you are performing to the best of your ability.

Warm Up Exercises (5 mins)

*If you find frets 1-4 too much of a stretch, just move to a higher position. It doesn't matter.

Just run up and down the strings. Start on the low E high going to high E. Then swap and go from high E back to low E.

Here is another good exercise for getting your fretting hand moving position.
Specific warm up exercises don't really matter. As long as you do something easy that gets the blood going to your hands and getting you ready for the practice.

Chord Practice (10 - 15 mins)

Next I would like to practice chords and chord changes. This is obviously really important when playing songs as you want your chord changes to be smooth.

When working on my chord changes I like to use specific songs as a basis to choose which chords I change between. For example, House of the Rising Sun (by The Animals), was one chord progression I worked on quite a lot.

For the next few exercises I want you to find a metronome. Just Google Online Metronome and you will find a variety of useable ones. If you have a smart phone you could also download a metronome app (for free, just what I done!).

Set the metronome to a comfortable beat, say 60, then start moving between each of these chords. (You don't need to arppegiate them yet if you are just learning, but perhaps this can be used as a little more advanced lesson later (after you master the chord changes with a simple strum). Depending on your ability you may only want to strum each chord once for every 4 beats of the metronome, or twice, or even the full four times. It depends on your level of ability.

*I know that an F chord is difficult as it requires you to mini-bar the smallest two strings. It's better to start practicing this sooner rather than later though. I wont post the chord diagrams as a you can find them with a quick web search!

House Of the Rising Sun Chord Progression

Am C F E

You can choose any chords you want to change between. It's up to you. A common chord change that people struggle with is C to G, so you should practice this for a minute or two.


Then you could maybe try some 7th chords. This has a blues feeling to it.

D7  E7A7

Or another favourite of mine when I was first starting was Bad Moon Rising; the chord progression in this is;

Bad Moon Rising Chord Progression


Barre (or Bar) Chord Practice (5 -10 mins)

This subject is always the cause of a beginner's headache. At first they can seem impossible, I know, as I was in the position myself. They can make you lose a lot of motivation and confidence, but you have to power through and keep practicing bar chords.

Start by practicing the 6th String Major chords, which look like an E major shape. Keep the shape and just move up the neck, strumming the chord once. This is great practice for getting your hand used to the bar shape.

Go from F to G to A to B. Which would be as follows;

    F      G      A      B


Just go up and down the fret board. F, G, A, B, A, G, F. This should build up the strength in your bar finger and get you used to the E major bar shape. I know it's difficult but move slowly and try to get all the strings ringing clearly. It won't be long before you are moving up and down these chords with ease if you practice them for 5-10 minutes each session!

Scale/ Theory Practice (10 - 15 mins)

To start this portion of your practice I want you do begin with some theory practice. Not much! Just read into the Major scale. How it's formed, the different patterns over the fret board etc. There are umpteen lessons on this on the web already so I won't reinvent the wheel here. Make sure you are comfortable with how the scale is formed and how each major scale has those specific notes attached to it.

After this you should start to practice the C Major scale. It's the first scale to learn as it is made entirely of natural notes. (C D E F G A B).
This hits all the notes in the C major scale, starting on E. So it goes, E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G. You can quite easily start on C and stop on B for a one octave C Major scale if you wish. Run up and down this scale a good few times to get used to it. Move slowly and practice with the metronome!

Song Practice (15 mins - whenever!)

You should always end a practice session on a high note. (No, I don't mean just pluck the high E string!). I mean, you should always end with a song, or something that sounds good. This can be whatever your musical tastes are.

I am learning a few songs at the minute and I always end with playing these songs and trying to get them flawless. (Im still a long way away from that yet, but the point is, I enjoy playing these pieces.)

As an example I have been trying to play 2-4-6-8 Motorway (by the Tom Robinson band).

2-4-6-8 Motorway Chords

*There are plenty tabs and chord charts for this on other tabs. Just search for them if you want to play this.



This concludes this example lesson. This lesson could last as long as you want it to. You can extend areas of the practice to last longer/ shorter as you wish. The point was to highlight some specific things that you as a beginner guitarist should be practicing.

Your practice sessions will always change and evolve. As you get better and more experienced with certain techniques you should aim to create more challenging exercises, or attempt more challenging songs. You should always push yourself out of your comfort zone and try harder stuff. If you keep playing the same things, just because you can, you will never improve as a player!

Hope this helps.

Good Luck, Scott

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    this is great =D i never have any idea what to practice so i just play random songs (very badly). this will help times a million :]
    Henry Wilt
    Thanks Scott, this gives me a better idea of how to structure my practise rather than just going at it randomly depending on my mood.
    Decode Music
    The very first excerize (1,2,3,4) Scott mentions, is by far the best thing any new guitarist can do. It helps develop strength in your hands (particularly the pinky finger and the muscle between the 3 and 4th fingers) and it develops muscle memory in your hands! As you get comfortable with this exersize, learning scales, becomes much, much easier! Great deconstruction of a practise routine!
    Thanks for this. Great info for someone that picked up the guitar for the first time last week!
    Great job. This post is very clear and helpful. I'd like to know which fingers do you say it is best to use for the second warm-up exercise. Should it be index for frets 1, 5, 9 then little finger for 11, 7, 3? Thanks!!
    popen_2 wrote: Great job. This post is very clear and helpful. I'd like to know which fingers do you say it is best to use for the second warm-up exercise. Should it be index for frets 1, 5, 9 then little finger for 11, 7, 3? Thanks!!
    I use the second warm-up exercise as a way to get my hand moving up and down the fretboard. What you asked would work though, index for frets 1, 5 and 9 then little finger on the way back down the fretboard. P.S. Thanks for the kind words to everyone who commented/ rated on my article. Scott
    As a beginner I'll try do this lesson a couple of times, it looks very good.
    Ilove the post man .I'm teaching a friend how to play and I didn't know how to set up a practice session 4 her.This is awesome
    Great lesson! But there probable should be something on learning songs.
    Hi there, great practice schedule. A question: for the first warm-up exercise above, are you supposed to keep all your fingers down while fretting each string, or is it like "normal" playing, one finger at a time, i.e. fret with your first finger, release, fret with our second finger, release, etc. etc. Thanks.
    For the first warm up, you want to fret each one individually and not keep your fingers down, fret 1 then fret 2 before the sound wears off. Slowly pick up your pace with it while you're at it, oh and don't be afraid to play around.. I like to make them into pinch harmonics sometimes or just make riffs out of them, :') overall just have one when you practice it & don't forget to pick up the pace.