5 Guitar Practice Habits That Make You A Better Guitarist

By Tom Hess

Your guitar practice habits determine your musical progress. Effective guitar practice habits help you solve your musical problems and become a better guitarist fast. Ineffective guitar practice habits slow down your progress and makes practicing guitar boring & frustrating.  

This video shows what it means to practice guitar effectively:

These guitar practice habits improve your guitar playing quickly:

Effective Guitar Practice Habit #1: Focusing On The Right Things At The Right Time

Your ability to focus controls the efficiency of your guitar practice. Focusing on the right things at the right time helps you solve your guitar playing problems and develop new skills. You can learn (and improve) this skill, even if you lack it naturally.

How to focus correctly on fixing your guitar playing problems: Stop mindlessly repeating exercises over and over. Instead, isolate the specific notes that give you trouble. This helps you identify why your guitar playing breaks down and fix your mistakes more easily (more on this below).

Watch the video to see how isolating the right section of the phrase makes it easy to improve your guitar playing.

Effective Guitar Practice Habit #2: Attention To Detail

Many guitarists practice with an unfocused mind. Some do it because they don’t know what to focus on. Others think that practicing = repeating something over and over. False! Mindless repetition only makes you better at repeating your mistakes.

5 Guitar Practice Habits

Effective guitar practice is about:

  • Focusing on the right things, in the right order and in the right way.
  • Drilling perfect technique into your muscle memory. Watch the video at the top of this page (starting from 0:47) to see what it means to “drill perfect technique into your muscle memory”.
  • Achieving specific goals with each practice session (more on this below).

Question: “Tom Hess, what does it mean to focus “on the right things, in the right order and in the right way?”

Answer: The “right things” are guitar playing elements that must be mastered to solve your guitar playing problems. Examples include: learning to collapse the first knuckle of the fretting hand fingers to do finger rolling; pushing the pick through the strings correctly when sweep picking; muting string noise using your picking hand’s thumb. Note: these elements do not need to be guitar technique related. The “right things” also include fretboard visualization, music theory knowledge, ear training skills and guitar phrasing nuances (to name a few).

The “right order” is the priority in which these elements need to be mastered. Some guitar playing elements are more urgent to master than others. The priority is determined by your skill level, your musical goals, your available practice time, your personality and many other things.

Fact: the order in which you practice and develop your skills matters greatly. Many guitarists have no idea in what order they should develop their skills. This is one reason why most struggle to become great musicians. (Self-taught guitar players suffer the most from this problem.)

Practicing the “right way” requires careful listening and observation. You must know if you are practicing correctly or incorrectly. You must also be able to make adjustments in real time to keep yourself on track.

This free guitar practice eGuide demonstrates how to pay attention to details and master fretting hand technique for guitar.

Attention to detail does NOT mean never making mistakes. It means being aware of what happens while you practice and correcting mistakes if they happen. This is similar to making steering adjustments while driving to keep the car on the road. This process keeps you on the right track towards your goals.

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Effective Guitar Practice Habit #3: Make It Easy

Great guitarists make their playing look easy…because it is easy (for them). Effective guitar practice is about training your guitar playing to feel effortless. Look for ways to simplify everything about your guitar playing (without sacrificing musical expression or phrasing).

One way to simplify your guitar playing is to use the most efficient fingering possible. Don’t take fretting hand fingering for granted. Think it through and simplify it as much as you can. Improving your fretting hand fingering can be a big shortcut to mastering what you are practicing.

Watch the video at the top of this page (starting at 2:21) to see how a small adjustment in fretting hand fingering makes playing guitar much easier.

Effective Guitar Practice Habit #4: Ask The Right Questions

Guitarists who make fast progress ask the right questions when they practice. They understand that:

  • There is always a reason why they currently can’t do something on guitar.
  • There is a specific path to follow to play guitar the way they want.

Their questions help them understand the causes of their guitar playing problems. Their practicing eliminates these causes and improves their guitar playing.

The right questions focus your mind on the results you want. They are specific, empowering and objective. Here are examples of the right questions to ask:

“How can I learn to do X effortlessly and fluently?” (“X" being the guitar playing skill you want to develop.)

“What must I improve in my guitar playing or practicing to master X?”

“How can I maximize my guitar practice time to get results faster?”

“How should I practice guitar to play consistently and reliably without mistakes?”

The best guitarists don’t always know the answers to these questions…but they commit to finding them out. Asking the right questions is the first step to success. You develop self-reliance and confidence in your ability to reach your goals.

Guitarists who struggle to make progress fill their mind with complaints and negativity. They ask disempowering questions (and make negative statements) that kill their motivation, such as:

“I suck!”

“How long does it take to get past this plateau?”

“Am I too old to play guitar well?”

“What if I don’t have talent?”

“How do I find motivation to practice guitar?”

“I can’t practice guitar as much as I want, this is why I can’t reach my musical goals.”

These questions and beliefs slow down your progress, kill your self-confidence and keep you stuck.

Effective Guitar Practice Habit #5: Practice With Purpose

You must see each guitar practice session as a step towards a larger musical goal. This helps you stay focused on the big picture and improve your guitar playing quickly.

Here is how to develop a sense of purpose in your guitar practice:

  1. Visualize yourself already having reached your ultimate musical goals. Think about it often (while driving, while walking, while falling asleep, while taking a shower, etc.).
  2. Break down your ultimate goal into smaller goals. These smaller goals should be stepping stones towards playing guitar the way you want. Plan these goals for each year, quarter, month and week of your practicing. This musical goals manifestation page tells you what skills are needed to master the guitar.
  3. Plan your guitar practice schedules for several days at a time. This helps you see each practice session as a small stepping stone towards musical mastery.

How To Develop Effective Guitar Practice Habits Within Yourself:

Focus on one habit at a time over a span of 2-3 weeks. Implement the tips in this article to refine each area of your guitar practice. Then move on to develop the next habit. Commit to this process over the next 3-4 months and watch your practicing become much more effective.

This free guide to fretting hand technique mastery helps you learn the right way to practice guitar and reach your musical goals.

Become a better guitarist fast by taking online lessons for guitar.

© 2002-2018 Tom Hess Music Corporation