Now that you have read about all the benefits of starting a daily guitar practice schedule and you are convinced that you want to start taking your guitar skills to the next level by establishing a daily guitar practicing routine, we will deal exactly with how to structure your daily practice time for maximum achievement and improvement in the shortest time possible.
Use those keys in building your daily guitar practice schedule plan and you are sure to be taking full advantage of every minute that you choose to dedicate here.
First of all – know that practice is individual since we all have a bit different goals, some of us want to shred on 200bpm on the electric guitar and focus only on improvising and playing lead, and some of us focus mainly on building up a big repertoire, improvise successfully and fingerpick in beautiful ways (I do!) But there are still a lot of fundamental techniques that we will all benefit from working on and I will go over all of them today.
I recommend taking my plan as a “homebase” and playing around with it so it suits your needs.
“I was obliged to work hard. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed just as well.”
Johann Sebastian Bach.
I will first go over all the elements that a good practice session should have, and later I will give you some very useful tips on the whole deal. Usually, each part lasts for exactly FIVE minutes – this is important and I shall explain why in a minute.
This means that 40 minutes is all it takes from you every day, although if occasionally you have some extra time for practice so feel free to extend each mini session by a few minutes.
In the article, I also provide some videos with examples for exercises – but if you don't dig this particular exercise, feel free to look for another one that works on the same skill. Anyway, I recommend to switch most exercises at least once a month in order to keep things fresh and maintain a high progression rate, otherwise, you are in danger of “staying still” even if you are slowly picking up speed on those exercises. This website (MusicDiscipline) also has a big bank of great exercises demonstrated very clearly.
Core Exercises For Your Guitar Practice Schedule – These Are The Most Important And Beneficial Subjects You Can Work On – I Recommend Picking At Least 3 Daily Exercises To Start With.
- Scales – Always start up with an exercise that involves going over scales since this is a great warm up for the fingers and for the brain too – as long as you consciously focus on WHAT notes you are playing and not just blindly going over the “scale boxes”. This video shows some great drills to begin with. You can do that to a backing track, a song, or a recording on a loop pedal in order to make things more interesting. BTW – loop pedals can help you immensely in your guitar practice – read here more about them.
- Finger Dexterity – Drills like “the spider“ will do wonders to your ability to send your fingers all over the fretboard and hit exactly the note that you were aiming for, and also with fingering complex chords. Here you can find another good set of dexterity exercises that are more challenging.
- Chords – Chords are our bread and butter so this one's very important and very effective as well. For these 5 minutes, I practice changing chords and adding new chords to my arsenal. The chords that I add here are usually more challenging chords like dim7's or CAGED shapes but sometimes I need to work back on some pretty basic ones as well. Here I demonstrate myself on the 2 techniques I use to implement new chords to my arsenal. Remember to do these exercises also very slow and not just very fast, so the chords will really get imprinted in your fingers.
- Picking Speed – Here I work for 5 minutes on each kind of picking that I use, and practice building up speed and accuracy. I usually practice fingerstyle for 5 minutes and picking with a pick for 5 minutes. On those 5 minutes what I do can vary a lot. With the fingerstyle I have been working on perfecting “Don't Think Twice It's Alright” in the last 2 months, slowly building up speed with the metronome, (so I also work on my time keeping) and also doing some short exercises as well. With the pic, I work on a song with a metronome, and do other drills for picking up my speed such as this one. Make sure to write down on a smartphone note the speed that you are now comfortable with on the metronome / drum machine app (Beats Plus is a good one) after finishing an exercise. If you won't, it will be hard to keep track of where you are and you will waste time without progressing.
- Ear Training – figuring out a melody – Here I usually play a song on the speakers and try to play along to the melody only. Occasionally turn the song off and try it “a-capella” to hear myself better. This works on interval recognition abilities which is very helpful with improvising skills and being able to HEAR the note that you are about to play and know what you want to play instead of just “shooting all over the scale” when improvising.
- Improvising Lead Guitar – Here I choose a song that I like or a backing track and jam on to that song. “4 chords” songs are great to begin with here since almost everything tend to sound good with them as long as you are on the scale, preferably the pentatonic scale. This is also an extremely fun part of my practice. Here you can see some tips regarding lead guitar do's and dont's.
- Repertoire Building – Here I focus one song from my repertoire list and work on improving it, usually out of my DIY chord books and usually with a metronome. (find out about the best metronome and best guitar apps here) to work on time keeping as well. This is the part I enjoy the most and also it is not effective if done for only 5 minutes like the rest of the drills so I save it for the end of my session as a “prize” and usually work on a song for 10-20 minutes at least. Check out my repertoire article for more details about how to work on it effectively.
* Incorporate the use of a metronome or drum machine apps and work on time keeping as much as you can. Time keeping is extremly important if you want to sound good and also it is not very hard to improve once you start working on it. Here you can read about 10 tips on how to practice your time keeping.
* Five daily minutes should be enough for most subjects. Remember the 80\20 rule: “80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts”. 5 daily minutes will get you very far with very little time invested. If you want to put in even more time – great, but the “curve” might not be worth your time.
A Mindful Exercise To Get A Clear Understanding Of What To Focus On:
Imagine that you are meeting the “future you”. 5 years from now. 20 years from now. Whenever you want that's down the road. How do you sound like on the guitar? What kind of style comes out of your fingers? What about your ears and how you can translate melodies by ear to the guitar? How's your lead guitar skills? Can you fingerpick songs or do you play exclusively with a pick? Are you in a local band who plays some gigs or just wowing friends and family whenever you take the guitar out? And how exactly do you do that? It can all be achieved through your guitar practice schedule.
Think carefully about where you wanna get to, and through this you will know on which exercises to focus on in your practice session tomorrow!
Optional Exercises To Add To Your Daily Guitar Practice Schedule For Even More Benefits
Optional – These are other exercises that are also very effective, but I know that time's a bitch and they might not be of high importance to all of us so take a look and decide for yourself if you wanna add those as well:
- Bends, hammer on's, pull off's, slides, vibratos – If improvising and playing lead is important to you, I suggest to also do five minutes to work solely on these skills that will spice up your sound tremendously. MusicDiscipline got some great exercises for that kind of things.
- Ear Training without the guitar – Usually I practice at least ten minutes of ear training every morning without the guitar since I believe that some apps can provide you with better ear training environments. Apps such as “Ear Worthy” and “Ear Trainer” by Thoor Software are great for practicing intervals, and “Theta Ear Trainer” is what I use for chord progression recognition, vocal matching and others. Look them up on App Store / Goggle Play, and please tell us in the comments if you know of other good ear training apps!
- Ear Training – Figuring Out A Song's Chord Progression – I am always working on one song that I am trying to figure out by ear. Doing this slowly develops your ear to distinct between different chords progressions and their sound and also I can assure you that once you have slowly figured out a whole song by ear, you are going to remember it very well, and it adds into your repertoire so that's two birds with one stone. It might take me a week of 5 minute sessions or it might take 2-3 days, depends on the song. When I am done or I think I am done, I compare what I came up with to the original song and the original chord sheets that I find online. Improvement is building up slowly here but this is one of the more useful and rewarding skills.
- Memorising the fretboard notes – after 2 months I got this one down but I still work on it regularly to make sure everything stays super sharp. This is useful especially for improvising skills.
- Daily “Big Solo” practice for 5-10 minutes – Currently I am working on nailing the solos of Sultans Of Swing with the help of a YouTube lesson. Bits by bits I am getting there. Working on challenging solos that you like will always keep you motivated and increase your “jamming vocabulary” to be able to pull out awesome new phrases the next time you are jammin' with a friend and to vary the way you sound yourself by learning from the masters. (“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing”. Salvador Dali)
- Whistling – I work daily on whistling the melody of a song while playing the chords, usually while recording myself to keep track of correct pitch and my progress. Why? Here's why.
- Percussive strumming.
This is what works for me, but go ahead and throw in what fits your OWN style. Whatever you choose to work on daily – you will eventually become very good at!
This is it, it's been a long one but I believe you now have all the tools you need to start establishing a great and productive routine. And don't worry, if the whole “routine” thing seems a bit daunting – have a look here. (I've got a system that might work for you instead of “committing” to a full daily routine) Now go ahead right now, open the notes app and write down a list of exercises to begin with. It will probably change around in the first few days but go ahead. Keep going at it and soon it will become a habit. You are on your way to becoming an astonishing guitar player!
Check out these golden tips for more productive training sessions!
Cheers for effective practice and quick improvement!
One more thing – to make sure you keep stimulating improvement and constantly have energizing thoughts on the kind of guitarist you want to become – keep listening and watching to new music on YouTube, Spotify, Apple music and such. Keep feeding your musical mind with good stuff!
Hope that gave you some ideas. What's your #1 exercise that you won't let go of? Let us know in the comments. THANKS!