8 Steps To Develop A Highly Efficient Practice Schedule

One of the biggest reasons why so few people become great guitarists is not because they lack talent, but rather due to not knowing all of the things they need to do or practice in order to reach their goal.

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Get More From Your Guitar Practice

If you are like most guitar players you sometimes feel frustrated with your guitar playing. You know mastering guitar playing takes a LOT of time, energy and effort. It seems like a huge mountain to climb in order to reach the highly advanced levels of guitar playing. You know that few people who attempt to climb that mountain will actually achieve it but if you are truly determined to reach these goals you certainly can! Fact is, one of the biggest reasons why so few people become great guitarists is not because they lack talent, but rather due to not knowing all of the things they need to do or practice in order to reach their goal. People usually have more than enough things to practice (licks, techniques, exercises, scales etc.) but struggle most with creating an overall plan to get them the result they want. Taking your guitar playing ability from wherever it is right now to exactly where you always dreamed it could be in the shortest amount of time can be done. Having a well-structured (yet flexible) guitar practice regimen is a key first step to do this. I know I know You've heard this before, it seems obvious', so why talk about it again here? well, unfortunately, many guitarists have misconceptions about having an efficient and effective practice schedule. Others have tried it for a while but either didn't stick with it, or had an ineffective practice plan to start with. Have you ever believed any of the following myths?
  • Effective guitar practicing routines are boring, it takes all the fun out of playing guitar.
  • I started putting myself on a practice schedule for guitar, but it was hard to stick to it.
  • Practice schedules are too rigid and they restrict, or put limitations on my creativity.
  • A guitar practice regimen is too structured for me, I want the freedom to allow myself to drift into random things when playing guitar.
  • Practice routines for guitar just don't work. I can make more progress without one.
  • I can't stand to practice the same things in the same way each day. Now think about this:
  • The truth is, bad' practice routines DO SUCK! However, efficient, effective and flexible ones have the power to totally transform your guitar playing, musicianship and your creativity in a shorter period of time. Imagine how much better your guitar playing life will be like after you fully reached all of your musical goals!
  • Good practice regimens won't hurt your creativity, the opposite is true because you are gaining the tools to become more creative AND your schedule can include creative time' to work on writing new songs, improvising, etc.
  • It's not boring to practice that which directly relates to the very things you want to achieve as a guitar player and musician. Yes practicing the same exercise for 30 minutes is' boring, which is why you shouldn't design a guitar practice schedule in such a way. We want to create a structure that works, not one that will drive you crazy.
  • You do NOT need to spend all your guitar practice time with a fixed schedule. If you have 90 minutes to practice, invest 45-60 minutes working from your planned guitar practicing regimen. Use the rest of time to freely do whatever you feel like playing that day.
  • The best routines are NOT the same each day. A good guitar practice workout schedule should be effective, efficient and flexible. A practice schedule is a roadmap to freedom of being able to play whatever you want! But this doesn't mean that you don't have any room to have fun, be creative, and enjoy playing guitar in the process. The only difference is that now you will be enjoying the process more WHILE you get better, and avoid mindlessly playing around on the guitar with no direction or sense of purpose. As a result, it will take you much less time to become the exact kind of excellent guitar player you want to be. The best way to think about an efficient practice schedule is with an analogy of a map. When you prepare to travel somewhere, you first analyze where you are (Point A), and then prepare the most direct and time efficient route of arriving to your destination (Point B).

    8 Steps To Creating Your Own Guitar Practice Routine

    Step 1. Get very clear on what your LONG TERM guitar playing / musical goals are. Beware of distractions there is a big difference between short term goals' and distractions'. True short-term goals should be consistent with your long-term goals. If they aren't, then you might be simply distracting yourself from what you really want to achieve as a guitar player and musician. When creating your practice routine, focus mainly on long-term goals. Step 2. Balance your existing strengths and RELEVANT weaknesses. Seek to turn your strengths into super strengths and only' work on weaknesses that are truly relevant' to your goals (see step 4 below). Step 3. Be realistic about how much time you can practice each day. As mentioned above, you can and should allow free time' in your schedule to learn, practice, or do other things with your guitar outside of your written guitar practice regimen. Step 4. You must be 100% sure you really know all the musical elements which are needed to reach your long term goals, AND you need to be clear about which of these elements are the primary' and secondary' priorities for you to focus on right now in order to reach your specific goals. To get help, I have created a totally free resource for you to use. Step 5. Contrary to popular belief, creativity CAN be taught, learned and practiced. Always include creativity development into your practice schedule (or work on it at least in your free time). Step 6. Application is key! Be sure to add time each day to work on applying your skills even if you have not mastered them yet! It's a big mistake to work only on mastering something before seeking to apply it. Step 7. Don't create the same schedule for each day of the week, your schedule should be based on larger period of time (I use an 8-day practice and learning schedule for my students works much better compared to a routine that repeats itself each day). Maybe 2, or 3 of the days are the same, but the other days are a little different (yet still based on the above steps mentioned). Step 8. Create 3-5 different 8-day practice regimens. Use each one twice (16 days) before working with the next one. Be sure that when you create them that each are based on the first 7 steps above. What's Next? 1. Get committed! 2. Stay committed! Follow through with your plan and watch your guitar playing get better and easier. If you find it hard to stay committed, focus on the reasons' behind the goals you have set for yourself, in other words, keep in mind why you want to reach those goals. How you will feel after you achieve them and are able to be/do/have what you want as a musician. About the author: Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world. Visit tomhess.net to discover highly effective music learning resources, lessons and tools including free online assessments, surveys, mini courses and more. 2009 Tom Hess Music Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
  • 55 comments sorted by best / new / date

    comments policy
      Daviec
      Wonder if these comments will turn into another huge flame-fest like some of Toms other articles...
      pigeonmafia
      What a load of crap. What did that article ACTUALY say? Practice, but do it EFFECTIVELY. Here, I made a tool to help that will bring traffic to my site. Articles like this really annoy me
      strat0blaster
      I know I know Youve heard this before, it seems obvious, so why talk about it again here?
      "Because people just love to hear me speak about the same thing over and over!" Here are your 8 steps to efficient practice - 1. Practice 2. Do it the next day 3. Do it the next day 4. Do it the next day 5. Do it the next day 6. Do it the next day 7. Do it the next day 8. Do it the next day. Hard work is the only way to achieve skill in any forum, and as far as techniques, work on ones you struggle with until you don't anymore. It's not quantum mechanics.
      tommaso.zillio
      Nice article. In my experience a good practicing schedule is what makes the difference. It's one of the first things I teach to my students. Also the 8-days idea is nice: that way if one day of the week is always particularly busy for you, you are sure that the next time the schedule is "shifted" respect to the week and you are not neglecting the same exercises of the last week.
      SilverSpurs616
      pigeonmafia wrote: What a load of crap. What did that article ACTUALY say? Practice, but do it EFFECTIVELY. Here, I made a tool to help that will bring traffic to my site. Articles like this really annoy me
      Well said.
      Lemoninfluence
      fuzzymunkee wrote: this is re-god-damn-diculous. I wasted my time reading this expecting to get a "plan." Not someone telling me to obviously make one.
      it's 8 steps to develop a schedule. rather than 8 exercises to practice. checked
      Colohue
      Or I'll check it, which will lead to considerably more warnings/bans. It will thus make me very happy when people come whining about it and earn further punishment. You have been warned.
      Lemoninfluence
      Daviec wrote: Wonder if these comments will turn into another huge flame-fest like some of Toms other articles...
      it probably will. which will result in bans/warnings. which will result in lots of people moaning about their warnings/bans. which will lead me to become more stressed which will lead to more warnings and bans as my tolerance of spam/flaming lowers. it's up to you lot really.
      gtrxprtkl
      Jeroenofzo wrote: Too bad it only said thing like : Create that, create this, but not actually WHAT to practice, or what such a schedule consists of.
      Which is exactly why I wanted to read this article.
      ibanezsa
      Nice article. Very helpful if you know how to implement these strategies. For someone who has already climed a big part of the mountain (and still needs to climb a big part yet) this is valuable info because I have been there and know that these suggestions are the correct way to progress. That being said...every one is entitled to their thoughts. Thanx Mr Hess
      Paul Tauterouff
      Flibo wrote: How can he make a perfect plan for you? It's up to you how much and how you want to practise. I think the article is nice.
      I agree. Many people just blindly follow what they read in a magazine or someone else's practice routine, but that is what works for them, not everyone.
      fuzzymunkee
      this is re-god-damn-diculous. I wasted my time reading this expecting to get a "plan." Not someone telling me to obviously make one.
      ticklemeemo
      CodySG wrote: PRSman20 wrote: Balance your existing strengths and RELEVANT weaknesses. Seek to turn your strengths into super strengths and only work on weaknesses that are truly relevant to your goals What!? Don't work on our weaknesses?!? Crazy man. Don't know if that was sarcasm or not, but basically it means only work on stuff that you see yourself doing in music. I.E. if you want to play metal, you shouldn't spend hours and hours practicing on acoustic finger style picking.
      Actually, acoustic finger-style picking is quite useful in metal. Haven't you heard any of these silly acoustic breakdowns? "Fact is, one of the biggest reasons why so few people become great guitarists is not because they lack talent, but rather due to not knowing all of the things they need to do or practice in order to reach their goal." I disagree, for one, if I never read this article I would have not heard of Tom Hess. Therefore talent does play a big role in musical development. No problem with the rest of the article though.
      Jango22
      I'd still prefer to see an example of a practice schedule that I could base one of my own on. Just to see how much time is generally spent on each item, how many items there are, etc.
      Flibo
      fuzzymunkee wrote: this is re-god-damn-diculous. I wasted my time reading this expecting to get a "plan." Not someone telling me to obviously make one.
      How can he make a perfect plan for you? It's up to you how much and how you want to practise. I think the article is nice.
      unclebuck5
      This article doesn't measure up to other articles posted on UG, that presented information that has truly changed how I practice. The only really important point that was made was, practicing fundamentals will make playing more fun. Let's face face it, it's a balancing act. Articles like this must be written to specific skill levels to have any worth. I am sure Tom Hess is a great teacher, but I have followed the same link to his web site too many times.
      obgem
      I suggest everyone to do it the natural way. Yeah it requires practice, but guitar playing is different from Kung Fu which really requires ultra strict discipline.
      yngwie.jnr
      SilverSpurs616 wrote: pigeonmafia wrote: What a load of crap. What did that article ACTUALY say? Practice, but do it EFFECTIVELY. Here, I made a tool to help that will bring traffic to my site. Articles like this really annoy me Well said.
      exactly man,to me its almost saying give up playing if you dont wanna have a "plan", **** that man,,i play what i play when i play it.
      anupkr
      It's good, but Joe satriani & Paul Gilbert is the best teacher in the music world. believe it or not. Iiii
      thomas.gattiker
      He is not very specific and doesn't tell people whom he doesn't know personally what exactly they should do, every guitarist is different and has to practice to his own needs and abilities and saying that is already very important. He teaches strategy and structure, which is what I was looking for. It's up to you to fill your plan with practises that suit you. I find this piece of advice invaluable.
      chaos13
      Too bad it only said thing like : Create that, create this, but not actually WHAT to practice, or what such a schedule consists of.
      It didn't say WHAT to practice because for everyone it's going to be different. Maybe someone wants to learn to play an awesome blues, so they'll build a schedule around that, but that schedule wouldn't work for someone who wanted to learn classical guitar.
      M_|_A_|_X
      itS A big load of very very vague #$%^... pointless article according to me..
      Lemoninfluence
      Jango22 wrote: I'd still prefer to see an example of a practice schedule that I could base one of my own on. Just to see how much time is generally spent on each item, how many items there are, etc.
      and how can he possibly do that. the amount of time a professional musician takes to practice is going to be different to the amount of time a bedroom guitarist is going to practice. similarly, someone who finds sweep picking easy isn't going to spend the same amount of time practicing it as someone who struggles with the technique. checked
      ahigs
      some good points, but ultimatley a massive waste of time and space. a silly article designed to bring traffic to his site. yet another load of crap from tom hess.
      Rodders
      Hmmm I've never had a practice routine and it hasn't haltered my guitar playing ability. I practice when I want to, play when I feel like it.. I always think 'practicing routines' are overrated. Practice, sure, but don't let it dominate your life in the way some people seem to feel it should. Practicing for more than an hour a day? I don't think guitar should be your life in that way.
      guitarmaniac232
      Jango22 wrote: I'd still prefer to see an example of a practice schedule that I could base one of my own on. Just to see how much time is generally spent on each item, how many items there are, etc.
      This is a good point, but you do need to use whats best for you. Find something that you like to do, and master it with this system. Its not meant to tell you WHAT to practice, just give you a few tips on how. However, I don't completely agree with this method. When he says play ONLY what's relevant to what you want to play, that isn't necessarily true. Even though you don't want to play classical guitar, doesn't mean it won't help your skill. It takes quite a lot of coordination, and will make you a hell of a lot better. Sure, you need to learn essential skills first, but there is all ways room for more things, new things.
      oasis43606
      Is it just me, or do so many of these guitar lesson articles seem so much like weight loss infomercials? aka eat less, exercise more and you will accomplish the same thing? aka if you just play guitar every day and don't give up on it, your drive to do what you want to do will lead to success?
      lestat1836
      rojomeansred wrote: You guys the reason he left it so broad and didn't tell you exactly how to practice is because it's different for everyone. He just provided tips to help organize your time, and I think it's good thing he kept a hands off approach. Someone who's been playing for five years shouldn't have the same routine as someone who's been playing for 3 months. Also depending on the style of music some people may have different goals and need to practice different techniques. It's not a one size fits all type thing. So ease off, I think its written how it should be.
      well said
      jnorth1969
      Rojomeansred has it right: this article is simply telling readers to get organized, set goals, and manage their time well. Because every musician will be practising different specific "tasks" according to level, goals, or needs, the article can't possibly spell out what "every guitarist should be practising." Even in broad terms, some of the musical skills that I consider important to my guitar playing, such as sight-reading, are of no interest at all to many guitarists. The practice goal "memorize chord shapes/voicings" means one thing to the absolute beginner and quite another to the advancing jazz player, and of course each of them will follow vastly different practice routines in order to achieve their goals. And really, what's wrong with a teaser article that will bring traffic to the author's website? Readers that want more information can get more, readers who don't can move on without having spent too much time on it. Readers here ought to be grateful that the author shares his knowledge with them for free.
      zbest
      Can we please ban tom hess? none of his articles actually say anyithing. what a waste of time
      ChadCrawford
      I really need to get into a regular practicing routine now that you mention it. It is difficult to set aside time daily, but I guess if I at least had a structured goal that would result in more efficient practice than just grabbing the guitar when I find an opening. I am going to work on this today.
      rojomeansred
      You guys the reason he left it so broad and didn't tell you exactly how to practice is because it's different for everyone. He just provided tips to help organize your time, and I think it's good thing he kept a hands off approach. Someone who's been playing for five years shouldn't have the same routine as someone who's been playing for 3 months. Also depending on the style of music some people may have different goals and need to practice different techniques. It's not a one size fits all type thing. So ease off, I think its written how it should be.
      Jeroenofzo
      Too bad it only said thing like : Create that, create this, but not actually WHAT to practice, or what such a schedule consists of.
      nosegrabmaster
      That's because that will differ depending on the player. A death metal guitarist isn't going to practice the same things as a jazz guitarist, are they? Besides, that tool on his website tells you what to practice, depending on your goals.
      SchecterFiend
      I feel like I've heard this a million times before from reading his other articles. >_> But, if you need help building a routine, I guess this is helpful.
      James Scott
      Nice article Tom. I think the key message here is that a lot of tutors make learning and practicing the guitar seem a chore - I know I nearly quit a couple of times because my teachers were making me drill stuff I wasn't interested in - that's one of the reasons I went self-taught for many years. Mixing hardcore repetition of things you want and need to learn with something lighter keeps you positive towards playing, which is the most important thing in getting results.
      CodySG
      I used to like Tom...but he's far too cocky for his own good. I like his articles, but they ooze narcissism and do get very repetitive...it's like he wants us all to know he's the best and if you're not one of his students or don't do things his way you'll never be able to accomplish anything as a musician. Though, a few of his articles do offer good points.
      vortexpassion
      Very good article. This helps me a lot. I never considered creating a practice routine that changes each day. Maybe it is obvious to other people, but it never occurred to me until now. THANK YOU SIR!
      Wlokos
      This is true and definitely good advice, but perhaps an example of a good practice routine would be a more helpful article for a lot of people to really understand what you're talking about.
      vortexpassion
      Wlokos wrote: This is true and definitely good advice, but perhaps an example of a good practice routine would be a more helpful article for a lot of people to really understand what you're talking about.
      Did you read what Jerry.thewise: wrote above? He sort of already talked about that.
      Keith P. Boruff
      Thanks for another great article, Tom! Effective practice is definitely important, especially for those of us who don't have as much time as we'd like to devote to practice.