The Best Guitar Practice Habits That Help You Improve Your Guitar Playing Fast

by Tom Hess
Double Your Guitar Speed e-Guide

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Want to improve your guitar playing faster?
The secret to doing that lies in...

... your guitar practice habits.
The more you know about effective guitar practice...

And the more effort you put into refining your guitar practice habits...
The easier it becomes to improve at guitar and make faster progress without practicing more.
In fact...

You’ll likely improve your guitar playing while practicing less than you do right now.
And in this article about effective guitar practice...
I’ll show you effective guitar practice habits you need to play like a pro (even if you are just a hobbyist guitar player), so you can have way more fun playing music.

Double Your Guitar Speed e-Guide

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

Ready to start?
To begin...

Watch this guitar practice video on how to practice guitar correctly:

Now that you know the basics about the right way to practice guitar, let’s go deeper.
Here are 5 more advanced effective guitar practice habits (and simple explanations on how to use each one to improve your guitar playing faster):

Effective Guitar Practice Habit #1: Set Micro Goals

You probably know that it’s important to set goals when you want to improve your guitar playing. The problem is, most guitar players either don’t set goals at all, or they set goals the wrong way.

You see, guitarists who know how to practice guitar correctly understand that there are many different types of goals.

There are long-term goals (the ones you plan to achieve in 1 year or more as you work to improve your guitar playing)...

There are medium-term goals (the ones you plan to achieve in 6 months to a year as you work to improve your guitar playing)...

Then, there are short-term goals (the ones you plan to achieve in 3-6 months). 

Problem is: if you only set a combination of these (long, medium and short) goals, it becomes difficult to know if what you are doing is the right way to practice guitar… 

… because you can only see if you’ve reached each goal after the time period you’ve set for your goal has passed.

And if you were on the wrong track with your guitar practice habits for 6-12 months, it means you have wasted a ton of time in your attempt to improve your guitar playing.

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This sucks!

The solution?

Micro goals.

What are micro goals?

These are objectives you set out to achieve in a SINGLE practice session. So, whether you sit down to improve your guitar playing (i.e. practice guitar) for 1 hour or 15 minutes, you should set a goal you set out to achieve during that interval of time.

That is one of the most powerful guitar practice habits you can develop.

Micro goals make it very easy to practice guitar correctly. 

You get immediate feedback at the end of each practice session whether you have achieved today’s micro goal or not. (This frequent feedback is one of the signs of effective guitar practice.)

What are some examples of micro goals?

Example 1: memorize a guitar solo (this can be achieved in 30 minutes).

Example 2: Repeat an exercise over and over focusing on getting used to a new pick grip (to develop a new habit that makes your playing way easier). You can do this no matter how long or short your practice session is.

Example 3: Write 10 riff ideas for the song (can be achieved in 60-90 minutes). 

Question: “But Tom Hess, who can possibly write 10 riffs in 60-90 minutes? That sounds insanely hard! How do you improve your guitar playing to such a level where you can write riffs that fast?”

Answer: This is an example of effective guitar practice in the area of songwriting, known as “writing for the trash can”. This is where your only goal is to write as many riffs (or guitar solo ideas) as possible in a given time period, without judging them. 

Pro tip: It’s far easier to refine an average (or even a poor) idea into something great than it is to create a truly great sounding idea out of nothing. 

Effective Guitar Practice Habit #2: Focus Rotation

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the things you need to focus on when you practice?

You are not alone.

Try ‘focus rotation’ and it will soon become one of your go-to guitar practice habits. 

What is ‘focus rotation’ and how does it help you to practice guitar correctly?


Focus rotation is where you repeat the item you are practicing over and over, but rotate the element of playing you focus on every 30-60 seconds (or some number of repetitions of the item).

For example: 

For 5-10 repetitions, focus on your picking hand.

For 5-10 repetitions, focus on your fretting hand.

For 5-10 repetitions, focus on your timing.

For 5-10 repetitions, focus on excess muscle tension.

For 5-10 repetitions, focus on unwanted string noise control.

This way, you end up focusing on (and improving) a number of guitar playing areas, even in a span of very limited time.

Best part?

Practicing this way reduces your overwhelm and makes you feel much more in control of your progress.

Sloppy Sweep Picking At High Speeds

Focus rotation can help improve your guitar playing in lots of areas (besides only technique). 

Take improvising for example:

You can practice playing a guitar lick over and over (to a backing track) as you refine it and focus on different elements of phrasing, such as:

  • Vibrato
  • Articulation (such as picking all the notes or only some of them).
  • String bending variations
  • Pitch range management
  • Rhythm of the notes

And more. 

You can spend a good 15-20 minutes practicing just one lick and make your playing sound better quickly. 

Watch this video to see an example: 

But that’s not all.

Another way to use focus rotation in your guitar practice habits is when checking for quality of notes during faster guitar licks.

As you practice a guitar lick over and over, rotate your focus from one note to the next. This helps you to clean up your guitar playing without slowing it down. (This sweep picking video lesson is a great demonstration of this process in action.) 

Effective Guitar Practice Habit #3: Slice And Dice Difficult Guitar Licks You Are Using To Improve Your Guitar Playing

You probably know that part of what it means to practice guitar correctly is to isolate the hard parts in the music and practice them separately from the rest of the notes. 

That said, many guitar players develop several bad guitar practice habits when trying to use isolation when practicing:

  1. Isolating too much or not isolating enough. If you isolate too many notes from a longer guitar lick, you don’t get the benefits of isolation. (i.e. isolating the notes doesn’t help you improve your guitar playing.) 

    But if you isolate too much (and only play a few notes in your guitar lick), you lose the context of what you are playing and the isolated fragment becomes too easy to play.

    Neither of these are ‘effective guitar practice’. Watch this video to see me coach one of my guitar students through the process of proper isolation as I help him learn to practice guitar correctly:

  2. Isolating guitar licks in the most obvious way.

    This means starting and ending your isolated fragments in places, such as: 

    - the first note on a string

    - on the downbeat

    - the first note of a lick

    … as well as making your isolated sections start and end at the beginning of a beat.

    These are not the most effective guitar practice habits, as they make the isolated fragments feel too easy.

    You will improve your guitar playing faster if you instead slice & dice your guitar licks. 

    Slicing & dicing refers to isolating guitar licks in the least obvious places within the notes.

    For example:

    - Starting from the 3rd 16th note in a group of 4 and playing up to the 2nd 16th note 3 beats later. 

    Playing over the bar.

    Starting (and/or ending) the isolated section with an upstroke.

    Any of these less obvious ways to isolate notes force you to learn the guitar licks you practice more deeply and pinpoint the causes of your mistakes (which helps to improve your guitar playing more quickly.).

Effective Guitar Practice Habit #4: Plan Your Practice Schedules Several Days At A Time

One of the worst guitar practice habits is trying to decide what to practice right before you begin to practice.

This makes it very hard to make the best choices about what to practice, decide how much time to practice it and make sure you are practicing all the right skills that will lead you to your goals.

Because of this, it is extremely unlikely that you will practice guitar correctly or manage to improve your guitar playing in a big way.

Not to mention, when you waste time thinking of what to practice right when you pick up the guitar, you end up wasting your valuable practice time.

How To Practice Guitar With A Limited Amount Of Time

A better approach?

Plan your entire week’s worth of practice schedules out in advance on the same day each week.

This way, you can invest enough time and energy for this task. 

You can make a list of all the skills you need to work on

…decide on what days of the week you’ll practice each skill…

… and plan what exactly you’ll focus on when you do.

That will almost guarantee that you will practice guitar correctly and develop the right guitar practice habits that will lead you to your goals. 

Bonus tip: If you spend any time practicing away from the guitar (hint: you should), plan those moments in advance too. 

For example: if you know you can spend some of your lunch breaks studying music theory, create a plan for what you’ll study on each lunch break.

Or, if you can practice aural skills in the car on the way from work - plan exactly what you’ll practice each day before the week starts.

This way you can spend more of your physical guitar practice time focusing on skills you NEED your guitar for.

Effective Guitar Practice Habit #5: Get Frequent Feedback On Your Guitar Playing

One of the best ways to make sure you improve your guitar playing most quickly is to get feedback (from a real expert!) on your guitar playing and practicing.

This helps you pinpoint flaws in your guitar practice habits and correct them quickly.

That said, the person giving you such feedback had better be someone you trust to give you quality, unbiased and expert feedback.

And if you don’t have a friend who happens to be an expert guitar teacher (who can give you such feedback for free)...

Consider hiring a great guitar teacher who specializes in helping guitar players play guitar the way you want to play to give you such feedback.

Speaking of which… 

Now you know how to improve your guitar playing faster using proper guitar practice habits…

I’d like to help you transform the rest of your guitar playing (everything from your guitar technique to music knowledge, creativity, lead guitar soloing and more).

I can help you with that in my personalized Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.
Here is how it works:
You tell me everything about your guitar playing strengths, weaknesses, musical background, and musical goals. I then create your personalized guitar lesson strategy. As you practice your lessons, I give you a ton of feedback to help you master your guitar lessons and reach your musical goals.
To begin, click the green “Start Now” button below.

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Tom Hess
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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