Small site with practice techniques

Hi all,

(I posted a v. similar message to Reddit :slight_smile: )

I’ve launched a small site of guitar practice techniques at Practicing Guitar — Practicing Guitar documentation that may make your practicing more effective. (Some of it may be very familiar to CtCers.)

When I studied piano, I found several great resources about practicing technique and repertoire, but couldn’t find anything similar for guitar. This site/book is a collection of the best information I’ve found about practicing, adapted for guitar.


  • Part I - On Technique: The role of the central nervous system, speed, tension and relaxation
  • Part II - Getting Organized: How long to practice, experimenting and observing, and a possible practice routine
  • Part III - Practice Techniques: Practice techniques and variations to learn licks, technique, and repertoire more quickly and thoroughly (e.g. chunking, backwards and forwards chaining, rhythmic variations, hands separate, etc.)

This isn’t a book of licks or practice drills – there are lots of those out there already. It’s a bunch of suggestions and ideas that can supplement any existing practice routine you might have. As always, a good teacher is the best reference!

I hope that this can serve as a reference to teachers, practicers, and guitar hackers like me.

There is a feedback page on the site, but if you have any questions, drop a comment here or DM me.

Cheers, and I wish you all the best in your practice!



Nice work, very well documented.


Awesome, I look forward to checking it out. Thanks


Thank you! Looking forward to checking it out later!

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I read the first and most of the second chapter. I am particularly interested in trying this out because I feel like my “practice” is not really existent and I do to much without a real goal.
Is there scientific evidence that the 20 minutes session works? Not doubting your detailed description, just asking out of curiosity.

I enjoy practicing some calligraphy, too. The script I am particularly interested in is business penmanship, the type of writing that was very widely done about 1900 in America. For this style of writing you have to use a certain posture, pen grip, and only write with your forearm (with the movement being generated in the shoulder), no finger movement involved at all, which makes it particularly hard to execute and master. The practicing is really the key here. And I gained a lot of good thoughts about practicing in the books that teach this script which are very useful for other hobbies, like guitar, as well. One of the most stated things of one author is that you should always start with speed, keep your muscles relaxed, and most importantly, working on something concentrated for 15 minutes yields better results than an hour of listless practice.
The starting with speed thing in particular is really closely related to something which we know: the thought is that you should be able to execute a letter smoothly and relaxed. Once you can do that, you can work on the form of the letter. Starting slowly and perfecting the form, then working up to speed will only result in a cramped motion, almost every author of these penmanship books mentions this. I feel like that is exactly what we know about picking, too. Playing slowly will result in inefficient and even cramped motions.

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20 mins was my initial suggestion, but I’m going to add a note that it is your call. Some recent vids I’ve watched re skills acquisition say even up to an hour. Since the most important thing is that you pay attention, it is likely whatever you can keep sustained relaxed interested focus in what you’re doing. I’ve been trying longer sessions as well, because the reps are what is key. I take lots of short breaks though, and try lots of variations, so a longer time seems to work for me, depending on the subject. Some people say just a couple of mins is sufficient, but I have found that I don’t have enough time to experiment, especially for harder things like crosspicking where I spend a lot of time going back and forth between fast and slow.

Another thing is that your hands and muscles should always feel “sprightly” :slight_smile: ready to go, good and swift. Does that make sense?

Re the speed: yes, that’s super important. It is also critical that it be effortless speed, as much as possible, I think! At least for me, I have tried going with “acceptable” tension, only to find that the tension was trying to tell me something.

I think this is all in accordance with CtC, we are all working towards the same thing.

Ps - though I’ve tried to document everything as clearly and unbiased as possible, my own thoughts can’t help but come in. So question everything and make it your own. It’s all a dialog for yourself.

Cheers! Z

@Kalahmeet above is a response to you :slight_smile: also though I’m not your teacher if you wanted to bat some ideas around re setting up a practice routine let me know.

In short, I feel any practice routine should be geared around repertoire, that is, things you can record or perform. Licks are too piecemeal unless they are for a bigger improv. Perfecting technique is important and super fun, but if it’s not in a bigger context, I feel it doesn’t really go anywhere. All my opinion!! Z

@jzohrab My playing has a few problems. I have a very fast tremolo picking, on good days I get to about 230bpm 16th notes (I think wrist, but not sure) more or less consistently, anything around the region of 200 to 210 bpm feels very relaxed and effortless. So I guess that is fine. But on a lot of other days I seem to “forget” how I do this. I will soon make some videos and show them under the technique critique section. I am tackling this problem for a few years now, it seems to be better now than it was about say last year or so, but still, this is quite frustrating at some point.

Also, I am having a question on the whole organizing part of this: Keeping a kind of journal is great and I will definitely try that again. I say again because I tried this before but never really knew what to record in the journal and how to practice properly. But maybe with the book (I feel awkward for calling a website a book because with books I always associate something physical, but I guess there is not really a better term lol) you wrote I will get to the point. But here comes the question I mentioned: how do I differentiate between technique and repertoire? For me, this is closely related. Let’s say I want to practice something of a technical death metal song which requires a very agile right hand with lots of string skipping etc… So working on the repertoire also requires working on the required technique, unless I slow the passage I want to learn down to the point that I only try to memorize it, but am not able to play it up to speed. Do you mean by practicing technique that one only focuses on something like tremolo picking in a very unmusical way? Because only “drilling” a technique without a musical context is kind of boring to me at least, and I know me: when I am bored, there is little to no progress because I lose interest very fast. But chances are that I just didn’t understand what you meant properly :smiley: (I hope I explained well enough what I meant because that is kind of hard for me to do in English).

Thank you for the site and your offer. I read all of it for now and I am really intrigued and want to try this starting today. Here is what I came up with (although I guess it is slightly different):

Point #1: Starting out with some simple fretting hand warm ups for a few minutes. I definitely need to do this because if I jump into faster stuff right away my pinky starts to hurt at some point. I will definitely try the “exercise” from that classical guitarist you linked. I still have very large motions that I do with my left hand fingers, but that didn’t prevent me from doing faster stuff…but I think there is no damage done minimizing the motions. I think I will try to use my picking hand as little as possible for these few minutes, I will explain why in the next point.

Point #2: Jumping right into faster tremolo picking on a single string. Only bursts of six to ten notes. I noticed that if I start slow with my right hand the “forgetting how to pick”-thing occurs more often. But that definitely needs some experimentation. Points #1 and #2 should not take that long I guess, so you could think of them as a five to ten minute preparation phase.

Point #3: Using your suggested 20-minute phase to practice on a specific passage, let’s say I will practice that notorious descending sixes lick of the intro part of Technical Difficulties. I still have problems with that because of the downstroke escape. Cutting the passage into smaller pieces if necessary and trying the chaining you suggested (or any other technique to sort out what works for me). Resting after the 20 minutes and using the journal to note observations, progress, noting which technique I tried and how it went. Resting for a few minutes, getting a glass of water or a cup of coffee.

Point #4: If I have the time, repeating point #3 with another passage or even doing this several times with different passages, depending on mood and time on a given day. Even doing it later after a few hours passed. I should practice a single passage only once a day, I assume?

Analyzing the passages for what is going on musically should be done outside of practicing I think. The analyzing/studying part has nothing to do with practicing, or am I wrong?

Thank you so much, you have given me a motivational boost!

All sounds good. I hope the structure you are making for yourself is motivating and fun. If it’s not, change the structure — motivation and fun are important.

By “repertoire” I guess I mean anything you can play for enjoyment! Yours and others’. I think performance is important, recorded or live, because it can make you try that extra 10% which is so beneficial. But everything is your call.

Analysis and studying you can do any time. It’s all your time, use it as you’d like :slight_smile:

I’m not sure! Some say that it’s a waste of time … I think if you practice something hard, you need to rest a while, and sleep is the best rest. But if you’ve had a long idle break, maybe it’s ok to revisit. No idea! My feeling is that it wouldn’t delay your progress to not practice it again.

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@jzohrab Thanks for this great work and knowledge compilation.
I’ll sure be referencing that site to fellow guitarists.

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I tried to stick to the plan I created and it seems to help me. I will tell you my observations and then stop to hijack this thread for my own purpose :smiley:

Yesterday I tried to do 20 minute segments but I cut them down to 15 minutes because I noticed that my concentration starts to fade. So these extra 5 minutes don’t seem to help me, but that may also be improvable.
Normally, I think I use my guitars around 2 hours a day, so 5 chunks/sessions of 15 minutes plus 5 minutes break between them seems doable for me. I would like to start with less, but on paper that seemed like not really getting anything done, so I will keep it that way and maybe experiment with the amount of sessions down the road.
What I did in those 5 sessions is this:

  1. The beginning of the DSX lick of the intro of Technical Difficulties (maybe 2 bars, not sure at the moment - all the notes on the high e and the b string). I tried the chaining and got that down on original speed yesterday and today. It is not 100% perfect, though, because there is always one note somewhere which does not ring out properly, so I have to work on the consistency with which I can play it. Maybe even cut it down by half, I will see.

  2. The beginning of Stabwound by Necrophagist, played at 130 bpm instead of 120 (or 260 instead of 240, since they count everything in 8th notes). Until the first tapping part. Check.

  3. The beginning of the fast part of the solo of Are You Dead Yet by Children of Bodom. The first 13 notes. I learnt this some time ago and wanted to get into it again. Works, only one note doesn’t ring out properly because my ringfinger and pinky are too close at each other. Have to see how I can work around that.

  4. The swept arpeggios of the Wrath Within solo of Children of Bodom. Learnt that one also a while ago, but those arpeggios were never really comfortable to play, so I tried to get the first one down reasonably clean. I can play the arpeggio, but still not 100% clean. Maybe split it in half.

  5. A simple A major triad and the two inversions horizontally and vertically from open strings to 12th fret. This is not new to me, but I would like to execute them more fluently, so I worked through that. That is not a technical challenge, though, unless I would try to sweep everything. But I wanted to also incorporate musical elements into this plan for my own songwriting.

I have to say, this really helps me a lot. I can not say much about the techniques you listed (yet), but having this kind of structure was something that I was always missing and your site has very valuable information about this. As stupid as it sounds, I play for years now and never had an idea how to structure this until now.
I had another thread where I described that I feel sometimes overwhelmed by what I want to learn. And looking at this now, I find it incredible what you can accomplish in 90 minutes of time. I will definitely try to keep up with it.

And regarding your last comment, I also think that it is more valuable to practice different things on a single day. At least that is how I feel right now.

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Hey there, looks good :slight_smile: and it’s great that you’ve found structure is helpful.

I have the same issues with being overwhelmed. There’s always so much to do! But having a few good goals, and working towards them bit by bit, is the way that works for me. I think that the two main things are a) paying attention, and b) consistency.

a) paying attention - it’s so easy to say, “yeah, this is good enough”, when I’m really actually not playing something well: bad rhythm/timing, terrible tone, inconsistency, etc. Or just half-assing a bunch of licks that I can already sort-of play, which is mindless fun but not mindful progress. Paying attention also extends to me paying attention to what and how I’m doing: tension, proprioception, etc. This is all mental, with the physical feedback and fulfilment of playing.

b) consistency - better to work 5 mins a day, really concentrated, every day – or perhaps every other day, depending on what it is (?) – rather than when I remember to do it, or when I feel like it. :slight_smile:

I find that a simple list of goals and what I’m doing each day for them helps to remind me to keep my wish list manageable. Otherwise I feel bad about everything I can’t do, and that list is loooooong.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t sustain a given pace w/ your schedule, that may mean that your schedule needs tweaking, or your goals. Organization is extremely important for progress, though, I think … maybe if you’re super gifted and have time to burn you can somehow find your way more “naturally”, but I’m not that, so structure helps. So re “definitely try to keep up with it”, if that’s referring to the organization, yes, do so :slight_smile: and don’t overthink it, let it help you find your rhythm so you stay motivated and always exploring. Fun is important, if it’s not fun, it sucks. :stuck_out_tongue:

Cheers and best wishes! z