Practice routines


For the teachers in the room, how do you recommend students practice. This is something I’ve asked my teacher and I’ve never received a satisfactory response.

Let’s say one can dedicate at least one hour a day to focused practice with the desire to improve right hand technique and left hand dexterity (with both single note lead lines, runs within chord shapes, and fretting complicated chords).

How would you recommend divvying up the hour in question?

(Obvious caveats that there is no single, correct practice routine, and a lot of this depends on many factors).

Looking for help to develop a practice routine
Practice Schedule
Daily Practice Routine For Technique

I usually write down a schedule to get them started like

  1. Tune
  2. Warm up
  3. Chords and Scales
  4. Picking Patterns and Left Hand patterns
  5. Songs ( 1-3 of previous songs we have worked on)
  6. Difficult sections of current song we are working on.

This at least gives them an idea of what they can do per session and they can use variations on this as well.
Hope this helps and have a blessed evening!


Depends on your motives as a guitar player, and ability to handle stress.

I’d say interval and ear training are number one, without that you will NEVER be a musician.
Then songs, get a repertoire of songs you like and play FROM START TO FINISH. The basic technique of chord and note playing is in the song, you don’t need to separate techniques from the song unless you really can’t play part of it.

If you’re not getting paid to play you do not need to waste time on professional level technique.

Even though this forum is heavily based around technique, I’d be extremely careful focusing on it, it’s not music, at all. Yes, if you want to play impressively it’s necessary to practice. BUT it is so, sooo easy to get stuck in the habit of just working out mindlessly on the guitar, you’ll end up playing certain passages really well, but that’s it… a one trick pony. You absolutely have to learn some basic music theory and get a song list down. Otherwise what’s the point… To wave our fingers around fast and sound like a noisy arcade?


My first thought is what do you want to learn?

What are the most important aspects for you to play what you want? Anything jazz related for example would probably require more time studying harmony, chords/inversions, scales etc.

I think a big part of the answer is to write out what you want to achieve, and try to flesh out what you need to be able to do achieve this. This is where a teacher can probably help. And then try to allot your time based on the difficulty and progress in different areas.

Here are some general pointers that may or may not apply to you that I recommend to my students:

I think of practice as the structured time of your guitar time, meaning if you have an hour to spend, then depending your “practice time” is the time that you will actually be working in a structured way on improving key skills. Maybe 30 mins for “practice” and 30 mins of jamming and having fun with the instrument is a good balance? Maybe you really like the improvement and can sustain 50 mins of practice and 10 mins of jamming. The key here the way I see it is how sustainable it is, no point in planning for a 60 min practice session if you know you won’t be able to keep it up for more than a week because it gets boring or you want more time just jamming.

Writing down what you plan to do is a good idea, and also writing down how you felt it went when you did the exercises. It can help you avoid getting distracted in in your practice session. This is also important maintain structure, giving you benchmarks and, importantly for your questions, see if you’re making enough progress, if you’ve given 15 mins for sweeping and 15 mins for legato and the sweeping is coming along really well and the legato is not progressing then you can see this in your notes and adapt the practice 25 mins legato and 5 mins sweeping, and see if you’re still progressing in both areas.

If you have and hour then maybe focus 15 minutes of a set of good exercises, or maybe try to make something musical based on the techniques you’re trying to learn. I’d recommend trying to mix up your technical drill, if you have exercises a, b, c and d then try playing them in the following order “a, b, c, d” repeated x-times, rather than playing “a, a, a, a, b, b, b, b, c, c…”. There seems to be evidence that this is more effective, at least for me it seems to avoid mindless repetition.

If your goal is very solid technique then I’d recommend that you’re a bit careful with using your “practice time” to play entire songs, this has value and is important, absolutely, but if your goal is to nail the “Master of Puppets” then it’ll take you over 8 mins and you’ll only get to practice the solo one, whereas if you practice the guitar solo by itself then you can probably get 15-16 repetitions of the solo within the same 8 minutes. There is of course value in playing entire songs, it just depends on what you’re working on.

The key here is probably just that optimal structuring of practice time is individual, and will change over time for each guitarist. But keeping track of progress and challenges will probably make it easier to structure the time in a good way.


I agree that only playing technical exercises is limiting, but I’ll have to disagree with the statement that technique and music are separate things. Good technique is absolutely necessary to make the instrument sound good!


That’s what I said. But it’s still not music.

Also add that making the instrument sound “good” shouldn’t be the focus, even with sloppy technique you can perform good sounding music, just not clean.
Just like drawing, you may have terrible control of the pen, but if you draw in the correct places it can be a work of art. It’s all about musicality. Not perfection

And if you don’t believe me…


It sounds so obvious, but this is a great point. I really need to do this so I can pin point what I want to do and figure out how to get there.

I’m not into shredding nor do I have dreams of being a lead player. I would, however, like to be competent enough to pull off a respectable/interesting/musical solo over 8/16/32 bars. Although my heroes can solo until the cows come home, that’s not what I’m about. I’m much more interested in bluegrass type of playing, nailing runs within chord shapes, and being able to shift from strumming chords to playing a run and back, cleanly (a la Molly Tuttle).

I’ve got a few weeks until my next guitar lesson (summer holidays and all) so I’ve got some time to really think about and articulate what my goals are. Thanks!


At the risk of sounding like an airport Hilton seminar:


College fashbacks. Oh god. I thought I got away for the summer! lol.


@Frylock I dig the SMART goals, but I think it’s important to have your goal be something you can succeed or fail at on a daily basis—ie process instead of outcome.

Scott Adams is a total asshat these days, but his “losers have goals, winners have systems” is solid.


Regardless of the terminology people use, “what do I want to achieve?” and “how am I going to achieve it?” are two separate questions. “Goal setting” only addresses the first question. The point of the goal-setting is to establish a “definition of success” that makes it possible to answer the question: “is my process/system/plan/etc producing the results I said I wanted?” Having time-bound goals defines a schedule for asking that question. If the answer is “No, my current process/system/plan/etc hasn’t produced the specified result within the specified timeframe.” then you re-assess both the goal, and the means you’re employing in pursuit of the goal. What didn’t work? In retrospect, was the goal realistic? What could you have done differently? Take what you’ve learned, modify goals and/or processes based on what happened previously, and start a fresh cycle.

And people can set concurrent goals with different time-bounds: daily goals, weekly, monthly, 90 days, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. I think Adams’ point is that the mere definition of the goals won’t directly result in them being achieved, and I’d agree with that. But his “systems” point at least implicitly requires at least a vague idea of what success is supposed to look like: nobody is implementing systems without some rationale for why they chose those particular systems to the exclusion of other arbitrary systems.


Fully agree—it’s a semantic choice, but I think it changes how we feel about the process on the day-to-day level.


This, I believe, is important:

"This theory states that when individuals are in the declarative stage of learning, that is, when they have yet to acquire appropriate performance routines, their direction of thought should be on discovering ways of mastering the processes required to perform the task effectively rather than on ways of attaining a specific level of performance. People who lack the requisite knowledge and skills are distracted by factors that are not relevant to learning, and hence they are unable to devote the cognitive resources necessary to mastering the task. In other words, focusing on a specific, challenging goal interferes with learning appropriate strategies or procedures that will enable individuals to accelerate their effectiveness. Thus individuals should avoid setting a specific, challenging goal until they have acquired the ability (i.e., knowledge and skill) to perform the task. Ability is a moderator variable in goal setting theory (e.g., Locke & Latham, 1990, 2002 ). Empirical research supports this contention.


“A performance goal frames the goal instructions so that an individual’s focus is on a specific task outcome (e.g., attain an increase of 15% market share by the end of the next fiscal year). A performance goal cues individuals to use performance routines or strategies that the individual has previously learned are effective in performing the task. In contrast, a learning goal frames the goal instructions in terms of knowledge or skill acquisition (e.g., discover five effective strategies to increase market share). Consequently, a learning goal draws attention away from a specific end result in that the emphasis is on discovering or mastering appropriate strategies, processes, or procedures necessary to perform a given task.”

Edwin A. Locke & Gary P. Latham (2013). Learning Goals: A Qualitative and Quantitative Review. New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance.