These following tips will help to dramatically boost the pace of your improvement on the guitar.
Some of them are more relevant to those who besides randomly playing songs and stuff that they love, also practice a regular personal set of exercises, (which I highly recommend if you consider yourself serious about music) – but most of them are relevant to anyone who plays the guitar and wants to get better.
I honed these tips over several years of structured daily practicing and I hope they will give you the same benefits that they gave me. Enjoy!
The Top 11 Guitar Practice Tips, Enjoy:
1 – Only Practice Songs and Exercises That You LOVE, and That You Feel Like They Are Actually Taking You to Where You Wanna Get to!
Remember that your practice time should be fun if you want this habit to last for a long time, so make sure to only practice songs that you love, and only do exercises you enjoy. If it’s boring – switch things around! Pick different songs!
If you’re spending time on specific exercises – also make sure that the exercises are built to tackle something that you actually want to improve in your playing, and not just a random exercise that you found online when you can’t really believe the reasoning behind it.
If you prefer video over text, here’s the video form of this post, from the Guitar Songs Masters YouTube channel:
2 – Record Yourself!
This one is huge. When you start recording yourself (and actually listening to it), you’ll be able to suddenly hear your weak areas like you’ve never heard them before. This will massively help you in establishing your directions regarding which areas you want to work on more closely. (topics for example – time keeping / switching chords faster / cleanliness of your playing / more fluency in your scales-playing, etc.)’
You don’t need any fancy recording equipment – your smartphone recorder will fulfill this task just fine.
Another nice bonus is that once you’ll start doing that – you’ll be able to check out recordings of yourself from the past and enjoy hearing your improvement in a “tangible” way.
3 – Use a Drum Machine App – You’ll Feel Like There’s a Drummer Backing You Up While Massively Improving Your Time-Keeping Skills
This is one of the things that since I learned them – my practice sessions became way more fun and also way more productive.
A drum machine app (or a metronome) like “Beats+” (Android / iPhone) or “Loopz” (Android) is the #1 key to getting you to play smoothly and with accurate time skills – which are easily one of the most important things in achieving the fluent, professional sound.
These apps actually make you feel like you have a private drummer accompanying you in your room – so they make your practicing a lot more interesting.
It’s also a great way to funk up a lot of our favorite songs – by playing along to new and surprising drum beats. (try “Time of Your Life” with a blues-funk beat for example…)
*However, when I’m not using an app that I need specifically, I try to keep my smartphone away from me when I practice. And if I am using an app – I keep it on airplane mode. Texts and other distractions really take the flow and the effectiveness out of your practice.
For more useful guitar apps check out this post: The 13 Best Guitar Apps That You Will ACTUALLY USE.
4 – Be Your Own “Smart Teacher”
No one will keep track of your routine besides yourself, so take charge, feel and know when to change things around, speed things up, tweak exercises to your needs if you feel you’ve grown on them, (or just stop doing the ones that do not feel beneficial anymore) and keep pushing your borders.
When it’s time to “fish” for a new exercises – YouTube will have all the answers: just search for what it is that you’re trying to improve and choose the one exercise that feels like it’ll be the best for you.
Remember that it’s not just a cliché: growing really only happens outside of the comfort zone. If everything is easy – you aren’t going anywhere.
My rule of thumb for a good practice session – is that by the time I’m done – it makes me feel that I’ve made a step forward in my playing – even if it’s tiny.
5 – Get All Your Capos, Picks, Tuners, Songbooks and Other Accessories Ready Beforehand
Make sure that you get all the accessories you might need right next to you before you even pick up the guitar. This way – you won’t get lazy when it comes time to play that song that sounds much better with a capo on the 4th fret, or when it’s time to tune again, and your practice time will be more effective.
Also – using a music stand (instead of reading chords from a songbook/smartphone/tablet that lay on the table and make you tilt your head down) will make a huge difference in your comfort of playing and correct posture. (And especially the comfort of singing – if you sing)
6 – Sometimes – Practice Slowwwwww
This one might be the most important one.
I used to try to play Hendrix songs like Little Wing and not see any improvement over months of practice, until I finally gathered the patience and realized that without slowing it down – I won’t improve – I’ll just retain my sloppy old playing.
Since practice is really like a “camcorder” to your brain – if you’re not doing it well right now – even if you’ll do it a 100 times – it’ll still suck.
The solution: If you wanna play stuff smoothly, you first gotta practice it slow. Very slow. Like 40-50 BPM slow, with a metronome – for at least 30% of the overall time of your practice. By doing that, you will be able to achieve perfect technique and playing clarity, and get your muscle memory to realize “how it should be done”.
Only then – speed it up very gradually. I take it up by 2-3 bpm at a time, only when I feel completely “in control” of the previous tempo.
Most people don’t do it and even if they play fast, they can’t play really clean and buzz-free, which is what makes you sound really good – the way that professionals sound like.
The best benefit you’ll get form this is not only that you’ll sound better – but you’ll also notice how everything becomes a lot more effortless. After you slowly practiced to perfection – Instead of having to concentrate super hard on “not to fumble” – you’ll be able to “get lost” in the music – and still have everything coming out perfectly.
7 – Stay Focused by Keeping Your Current Training Plan on a Physical Note or a Smartphone Note That’s In Sight
Don’t noodle, have an agenda instead!
When you have a structured plan – keeping it on a note that’s in front of you is a great way to always stay focused. If improving is important to you – don’t just randomly start practicing without being focused on what you’re going to work on today.
Check out this article if you want to figure out a great exercises list to implement to your daily practice routine as a beginning. (from there – your routine should keep changing according to your needs and progress)
Usually I make those notes in a physical notebook that I keep close to my guitar, and once a month I write it down with some new exercises. (while still keeping around some of the older ones)
Another tip here – scrabble things around! I like to change the order that I use to go through the exercises – almost every day. This helps in keeping things fresh, and keeping yourself out of “brain-ruts”.
8 – Consistency Is the Most Important Aspect of Improvement
If you can stay consistent with one hour a day – great! If you don’t have a lot of time – aim for practice sessions of even 20 minutes, but at least stay consistent with them. 20 minutes * 5 times a week will take you MUCH farther than even three hours once a week.
Aim for at least 5 times a week and you’ll see huge improvement over the long term. HUGE.
However, keep it fun and never practice until you feel sore or like you’re not enjoying anymore. Also – a mid-time break in your practice session will only do good for you.
9 – Practice While Standing for at Least 20-30% of the Time
Playing while standing is more challenging – no matter how you try to turn it around. It’s mostly because of the angles that put your hands in a less comfortable position to reach the fretboard, and because of the extra weight that’s on you.
The thing is – More challenging also means more rewarding – and you’ll slowly find that playing the guitar both while standing or sitting will become easier.
Moreover, on the first times that I was on stage (where usually you’ll play while standing), I did not realize why suddenly it was MUCH harder to play than how I was used to from practicing. The reason was that I just never practiced while standing.
You can prevent this from happening to you! So get a nice, comfortable strap, start using it often – and you’ll surely enjoy a faster improvement curve.
10 – Practice Playing without Looking at Your Hands!
This one’s pretty much self-explanatory. Practicing playing without looking at your hands will help your whole playing become a lot more natural. Things will start coming a lot more easily.
If it’s hard – slow it down!
I once read that Carlos Santana said he used to take this thing much farther – and often practiced with a blindfold. No – I don’t suggest you do this (: I tried it for a couple of times – and it just made me dizzy… But you get the idea.
11 – Bonus: LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN
The more you’ll listen to new music (music that has guitars in it) – the more ideas and new inspirations will start coming out of your own hands.
Here’s a starting list of some of my own favorite artists whose music features some great guitars (both acoustic and electric) – that I highly recommend you check out. Dig in, investigate and enjoy it (and branch out of it) in your own pace. When you find something you really dig – check out more albums from that artist.
- Jimi Hendrix
- Dire Straits (or Mark Knopfler’s solo stuff)
- Van Morrison
- Eric Clapton
- Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Rolling Stones
- The Eagles
- Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Simon & Garfunkel
- John Mayer
- Brad Paisley
- Doc Watson
- Red Hot Chili Peppers (or John Frusciante’s solo stuff)
Besides looking up these artists on YouTube, you can also check out Apple Music / Spotify playlists that include them along with similar artists – for an easy listening experience.
Above all – just have fun, and try to let music become a meditative experience.
Let yourself go to the musical places that YOU feel attracted to go to.
The Ultimate Guitar Songbook (110+ of the Most Fun to Play Songs)
I hope this list has given you some ideas, and if you want to have another bunch of awesome songs in a fancy PDF form (many of them also appear on the list above), feel free to download the songbook in this link.
You” find more details about the songbook underneath the two pictures (and don’t worry, there’s a lot more to it than Wonderwall and Hallelujah, you’d be delighted)