Question: Hey Tom Hess, I have a guitar teacher, and am working on my long term goal of becoming a virtuoso. The only problem I have is with practicing and/or the time issue. I can put in about 3-4 hours of intense focused practice, but after that my brain kind of reaches a point where I struggle to practice more. My question is, is it possible to reach virtuoso technique with 3-4 hours of practice? How do I achieve a virtuoso level of playing (and compositional) ability, while minimizing the time spent practicing? In other words... what are the most effective strategies AND tactics for getting there? Thank you.

Tom Hess's Answer: Remember that the most important thing is the quality of your practice rather than quantity. So even if you have only 1 hour per day to practice, as long as you are consistent AND you use effective practice habits as well as an efficient guitar practice schedule you will make powerful progress in a short amount of time.

So your focus needs to shift from “how much time should I practice” to “how can I refine my practice efficiency and effectiveness to the point where I can get the MAXIMUM benefit from every SECOND that I spend practicing?” When you do that, then as long as you practice for some reasonable amount of time (1-3 hours per day for example) you will make a LOT more progress than someone who practices 10 hours per day but doesn’t do so in an effective way.

Also, when you practice, make sure to not “only” work on technique, since becoming a true virtuoso requires much more than sheer speed. You need to learn how to use speed in a musical way in the context of songwriting or improvising. So you also need to be working on studying music theory, developing your ear, etc. and (most importantly!) applying and integrating these skills with your guitar technique. It is the ability to apply and integrate all of your musical skills that makes one a true virtuoso (rather than simple ability to play super fast). This will greatly reduce the overall amount of time needed to learn and master the guitar. Check out this how to practice guitar video about integration and application of musical skills and how they lead to mastery.

Read this article if you are having a hard time creating an efficient guitar practice schedule.

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