Learning to play guitar means putting in many hours of practice. Not all practice techniques are equal, though. That’s why you should utilize the techniques that work best for you – ones that will truly help you take your guitar playing to the next level.
Here are some of the best practice techniques guitar teachers recommend to those who want to improve.
Take Time to Warm Up
Most people think of warm-up exercises as something you do before sporting events or exercise, but for guitar players, it’s important to get your fingers loose.
Doing chromatic exercises that have you playing all 12 guitar pitches in sequence is a great way of doing this. Make use of different fingers for each fret, so you improve blood flow to each.
Practice Your Chords
Another good way of starting out a practice session is to play through your chords. Strum each one until you’ve played all of the chords and are familiar with them.
Then, you can work on transitioning between various chords, playing each one four times before moving to the next.
As you become more comfortable, play faster and start changing up the chords until you can move from one to any other without difficulty.
Take Your Time
Be sure you take your time with the chords. Don’t rush through them or move on until you feel comfortable playing them.
Early on, you may do nothing but play chords during your hour of practice. If you are having timing issues, you may want to use a metronome to help you increase your sense of rhythm.
Use the Three-Minute Picking Method
One great exercise is known as three-minute picking. First, you do eighth-note downstrokes at a speed that isn’t too fast for you. Do this for three minutes, then to eighth notes alternating downstrokes and upstrokes for three minutes.
Keep your speed even during these strokes. This exercise will help you build up stamina and develop the muscle memory needed to play guitar without really thinking about it.
Build Up Strength
Guitar playing takes a lot of hand strength, and in the beginning, you may find that you can’t practice or play for as long as you want because your hands get tired. One exercise that helps build up strength is to go legato exercises.
These exercises have you running through all possible finger combinations. You don’t pick during these exercises. Instead, you run through different hammer-on and pull-off movements as fast as possible for 15 seconds.
Be sure to take time to stretch and shake out your hands and wrists often so you don’t overwork them.
The Time and Place of Practice Is Also Important
While it’s not a practice method per se, the time of day you practice, how long you practice, and even where you’re practicing can all impact your guitar playing. If you don’t practice regularly, your guitar playing may never improve as much as you want it to.
You need to set aside time every day to work on your guitar playing. Consistency is just as important as the types of exercises you do.
One way of tracking this and noting your progression (or lack thereof) is to keep a practice sheet. Write down when you start practicing and for how long you worked on guitar for that day. If you’re getting frustrated with your inability to improve, look back at these logs to see if you’re truly committing yourself to your music.
You also want to be sure you’re getting the most out of your practice sessions. You may have logged an hour of practice every day, but were you truly focused on playing the guitar during that time?
If you’re practicing in your living room, you may have stopped several times to talk to people or to pay attention to something on the TV. You might have stopped to answer the phone or reply to a few texts. All of these things can turn that hour of practice into a half-hour of true focus.