Tom Hess Guitar Practice Review

(This article is an excerpt from a guitar playing interview with Tom Hess. The interview was conducted and transformed into an article by Ryan Buckner.)


Tom-Hess-Interview-And-Review-Of-Common-Guitar-Practice-ProblemsOne of the most common problems for guitarists is getting significant results from their guitar practice time. It is common for a lot of musicians to spend a lot of time practicing only to have little or nothing to show for it in terms of musical progress.

I recently had a chance to speak with a highly regarded professional musician and guitar teacher Tom Hess (guitarist in Rhapsody Of Fire). During my interview with him, I asked Tom to share a few insights into the best methods for practicing guitar by reviewing and replying to several of the most commonly asked questions guitarists have about this topic.

Below are some e-mail excerpts that I asked Tom to review containing the most commonly asked questions about guitar practice. Read through each one to see his responses and learn his advice on how one can improve their guitar practice methods:

Tom Hess review of e-mail excerpt #1:

“I have been trying to find a lot of information to help improve my sweep picking technique. So far I have accumulated a bunch of lessons from various websites and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Where can I find things to practice to that will help me quickly be able to sweep pick at a high level?”

Tom’s advice: If you are feeling overwhelmed, you definitely do NOT need to find more things to practice on guitar. The truth is, learning how to organize your guitar practice is equally as important as the actual materials you practice. That said, focus on finding a way to organize the exercises and materials you already have into an effective guitar practice system. This system should be designed with your personal guitar playing goals in mind; and should be able to prioritize the time you spend on each task in order to help you reach your goals in the most effective way possible.

Tom Hess review of e-mail excerpt #2:

“I usually sit down to practice one thing on guitar, but end up playing around with riffs or licks that I have memorized. How can I become more focused?”

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Tom’s advice: Your situation is a very common one for many guitarists. In fact, most guitar players have a hard time resisting the temptation to work on the things that they can already play well. It is natural to enjoy practicing the things on guitar that you have already mastered. However, by spending too much guitar practice time working only on what you WANT instead of what you NEED, you will ultimately achieve little or no progress in the areas of your guitar playing that need it most. The solution is to truly DEDICATE your guitar practice time to your musical goals. Don’t allow short term distractions to get in the way of your higher goals of becoming a better guitar player and musician!

Tom Hess review of e-mail excerpt #3:

“I work a full time job, so sometimes I don’t have much time to practice guitar during the day. What can I do to still make progress?”

Tom’s advice: The key to getting the most out of your guitar practice when you have only a limited amount of time is to practice things with a high degree of “transferability”. In other words, you must practice things that will help you improve in the most areas of your guitar playing at the same time. For example, compare the following two guitar practice possibilities: Working on scale patterns using directional picking versus playing a single string tapping lick. In this case, working on improving your guitar scales will target many more areas of your guitar playing than tapping notes on a single string. This makes it a much better choice for guitar practice when practicing guitar with limited time.

Tom Hess review of e-mail excerpt #4:

“I’m not really sure what to practice on guitar in order to get good. What things do I need to work on?”

Tom’s advice: In order to understand what you need to practice on guitar, you must first take the time to clearly define your guitar playing goals. Once you have done this, you will then need to figure out what skills you must develop to become the musician you wish to become. Before I begin teaching my guitar students, I ask them A LOT of questions about their goals, strengths and weaknesses. It’s only after I understand these things that I can create an effective lesson strategy to help them. That said, the fastest way for you to get to a level of what you consider “good” on guitar is to find a teacher who can show you exactly what you must practice in order to achieve your guitar playing goals.

Ryan: Thanks very much for your insights about practicing guitar Tom!

TH: You are very welcome.

Ryan: To the readers of this article, you have now learned what you should do to make more progress in your guitar playing. To get the most out of this knowledge, it is important to take action to use these ideas in your everyday guitar practice routines.

Learn more about how to build an effective guitar practice schedule by reading more information on Tom Hess’s guitar practice routine web site.


Learn how to organize guitar practice effectively.

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