A guitar practice routine is the most effective way to grow as a musician. No matter what style of music you play, or your experience level, organized practice time helps you grow as a player. But. Finding time to sit down and work out a routine, and then spend time each day practicing, seem like a daunting task. You have other responsibilities in your life. Families, jobs, hobbies, paying the bills, etc. are all vying for your time. Before you know it, the car’s washed, the bills are paid, and your guitar is gathering dust in the corner of your room. But even for the busiest of the busy, this doesn’t have to be the case. You can learn how to play guitar in as little as 30 minutes a day, if you organize your practice schedule correctly. In this article, you learn how to:
- Maximize every minute with your guitar.
- Grow as a player when time is short.
- Make music fun even when life is stressful.
- Create effective practice routines with solid templates.
- Take your playing to the next level, from beginners to experts.
With an effective and efficient guitar practice routine, you get time with the family, kick butt at your job, pay the bills, and become the best guitarist possible.
Guitar Practice Schedules – Click to Jump Down
- Before You Start
- Guitar Practice Concepts
- Weekly Practice Schedule
- 15 Minute Guitar Workout
- Daily Practice Schedule
- Guitar Practice Routine 1
- Guitar Practice Routine 2
- Guitar Practice Routine 3
- Rest Days
Before You Start
Before you learn how to build an effective routine, it’s important to set up a few learning tools in your practice schedule. By setting specific goals, journaling, and recording each session, you’re effective and efficient in the practice room, squeezing the most out of every minute you devote to learning guitar.
Set Specific Practice Goals
The most important element of any practice routine, goals give you targets to aim for in your playing and highlight progress in your studies. As you develop your practice schedule, set specific goals for each daily and weekly section of your guitar practice routine. An example of this would be:
- Scales Daily Goal – Reach 120 bpm with metronome on A major scale.
- Scales Weekly Goal – Increase daily bpm by 25% with A major scale.
- Scale Monthly Goal – Hit 25% bpm increase with A, D, G, and C major scales.
By setting specific goals, you give yourself specific targets to reach and measure your success over time. If you find that you aren’t reaching your goals, daily, weekly, or monthly, don’t think of it as a failure. Instead, figure out why you aren’t meeting your goals and use that to set goals in other areas of your studies. For example, if you’re not reaching your bpm goal for the week, it could be a picking issue. You would then focus on alternate picking, before coming back to the scale exercises with your increased technical skills. Goals are essential when learning any skill, and working towards them maximizes your guitar practice routine.
Another essential tool for an effective practice routine is keeping a practice journal. When you’re working in short sections, such as 30-minute routines, it’s hard to see results day to day. By keeping a practice journal, you see tangible results as you record your daily exercises and achievements. If you don’t think you’re growing, look at your journal for the past few months to see where you were and where you are now. You’ll be surprised that you’ve learned a lot of new material, increased your bpm with technique exercises, and spent less time each day to learn new concepts on the fretboard. On the other side of the coin, if you’re struggling to reach a specific goal, journaling helps you figure out what’s working for other areas of your routine. You then apply similar techniques to the concept you’re struggling with to overcome those roadblocks in your practicing. Though it may seem strange at first, a practice journal is one of the most effective ways to see progress and grow in the short and long term.
Recording Practice Sessions
Alongside journaling, another highly effective practice tool is recording your practice sessions. You can listen back to those practice sessions the next day, week, or month, to hear your improvement over time. You can also listen to problem areas, allowing you to address those areas when you’re not focused on playing them in the moment during an exercise. Recording is also effective when working on less measurable concepts, such as soloing or legato playing. Listening back, taking notes on what’s working and what’s not, helps you quickly address those issues, and enhances your strengths, during these sections of your routine.
Guitar Practice Concepts
Though every guitarist is different, there are 7 musical concepts that should be a part of any guitar practice routine. These concepts cover every skill needed to develop a well-rounded approach to chords, soloing, fretboard knowledge, and music theory. In the 30-minute routines below, you cover each of these 7 concepts in your weekly practice sessions. By spreading out these concepts, you cover all 7 in your studies, and see progress on the guitar each week at the same time. The 7 elements of an effective guitar practice routine are:
- Ear Training
- Music Theory
As you can see, there are a lot of musical concepts to cover in your guitar practice routine. It might seem like you need a lot of time each day to even touch upon these concepts. Don’t worry about cramming these skills into each practice session. Instead, focus on touching each of these essential skills over the course of a series of practice sessions that you repeat each week. Having a well-rounded practice routine each week allows you to grow as a guitarist by working short, consistent practice sessions.
Weekly Guitar Practice Schedule
Before digging into the daily practice routines, it’s effective to plan out your weekly practice schedule to get the most out of these short, 30-minute sessions. In a similar way to how you work out at the gym, using a weekly schedule covers essential concepts, even when time is short. Here’s how you organize your weekly schedule to maximize time in the practice room, and cover essential skills over a 7-day period. You’ll learn about each of these three routines, and the rest day, in detail below.
- Saturday – Practice Routine 1
- Sunday – Practice Routine 2
- Monday – Rest Day
- Tuesday – Practice Routine 1
- Wednesday – Practice Routine 2
- Thursday – Practice Routine 3
- Friday – Rest Day
As you can see in this weekly guitar practice schedule, you aren’t working long sessions each day. But, each week you cover a lot of ground on the fretboard. By spreading your practice routine over a week, you use consistency to build skills over time. These steady, short, practice sessions produce big results over time, especially compared to not practicing for several days and then cramming a few times per week.
The 15 Minute Guitar Practice Routine
If time is really short, you can adjust the 30-minute routine to work with 15-minute segments each day. When doing so, you alter the two daily practice sections to fit the following time schedule.
- Section 1 – 10 Minutes
- Section 2 – 5 Minutes
Though 15 minutes might not seem like a lot of time each day to practice, over time this consistent practicing adds up. With steady practice, you keep your hands and ears in shape, and maintain your creativity on the fretboard. It might not be ideal to only practice 15 minutes each day. But, it’s much better to work in short, consistent sessions than not to practice for days on end and then do a big chunk on the weekends. Now that you know the 7 skills, how to schedule your weekly routine, and how to work an effective 15-minute session, you’re ready to work the 30-minute daily practice routines.
Daily Guitar Practice Breakdown
With specific practice goals set, and your practice schedule planned for the week, it’s time to look at your 30-minute daily practice routines in more detail. Each of these 30-minute sessions is broken up into two chunks, one that takes 20 minutes and another that takes 10 minutes. It’s important that you stick to this timing when working on each section in your daily practicing. Set a timer if you have to. Just don’t go over time on one item and take time away from the other concept. It’s tempting to keep going on an exercise once you’ve started. But. Doing so takes time away from other important areas, and prevents you from covering all 7 essential concepts each week in the practice room. Lastly, always use a metronome to get the most out of any technical element in your daily practice routine.
Guitar Practice Routine 1
The first routine that you’ll work on, which falls on a Saturday and Tuesday in the weekly schedule, focuses on harmony and melody. Because guitarists spend most of their time playing chords and chord progressions, as compared to soloing, this takes up the majority of today’s routine. If you find that you become unbalanced in these two areas, you can switch them up to spend 20 minutes on scales and 10 minutes on chords. And don’t forget to set specific practice goals for each section to monitor your progress and achieve those goals over time.
Chords and Chord Progressions – 20 Minutes
As mentioned above, as a guitarist in a band or jam setting, you spend most of your time playing rhythm guitar. Because of this, spending 20 minutes in today’s session prepares you to function in a band, as well as take your rhythm guitar chops to the next level. Here are four examples of chord exercises that you could use in today’s session.
- Develop specific chord shapes, such as barre chords or drop 3 chords.
- Learn inversions for any chord type, i.e. m7.
- Practice a chord progression in multiple keys, i.e. I-vi-IV-V.
- Work on playing the chords, in a few positions, for a song you’re learning.
Scales and Arpeggios – 10 Minutes
Though many guitarists love to learn scales and arpeggios, sometimes this side of your practicing is the source of an unbalanced routine. To keep these items in your routine, but not overdo it as some guitarists do, you work on scales and arpeggios for 10 minutes in today’s routine. Remember, set specific practice goals for this section. And don’t be worried about working both scales and arpeggios in this section of your practice routine. It’s perfectly cool to work on a scale exercise for a few weeks or months, then switch to arpeggios, and work both back and forth over time. Here are four examples of scale and arpeggio exercises that you could use in today’s session.
- Learn a new scale in 12 keys.
- Play a mode and its related arpeggios in all keys.
- Run a practice pattern through a new scale.
- Play one, two, and three-octave arpeggios shapes for a chord type, i.e. maj7,
Guitar Practice Routine 2
Moving on to day two, which falls on Sunday and Wednesday, you practice technique and soloing. Working these two concepts builds your strength, dexterity, and creativity in today’s practice routine. As was the case with scales, guitarists often overdo it with technique. To prevent this imbalance, set a timer and stop your technique exercise after 20 minutes. This keeps you moving forward with technical and soloing goals in your daily and weekly routines, and prevents your time from becoming unbalanced in the practice room.
Technique – 20 Minutes
Building technique on guitar makes anything you play smoother and easier on the fretboard. But. Technique doesn’t just mean playing fast. Having strong guitar technique means building dexterity, flexibility, strength, and speed in both your picking and fretting hands. Because of this, work a variety of technical exercises in this section of your practice routine to develop strong fundamentals. Here are four examples of technique exercises that you could use in today’s guitar practice session.
- Speed drills with a metronome, steadily increasing the speed.
- Legato exercises through scales or finger patterns.
- Alternate picking, fingerpicking, or hybrid picking exercises.
- Stretching exercises to work on fretting-hand dexterity.
Soloing – 10 Minutes
In your soloing practice, let your hair down and be creative as you learn about musical concepts and the fretboard. One thing to watch in this section, is that you don’t just randomly solo over chords or chord progressions. This won’t help you grow as a soloist. Instead, soloing with a specific goal produces better results in the practice room. I call this type of soloing practice, “constructive noodling.” This is where you solo over a progression, but you only use one scale fingering, one part of the neck, one outside concept, etc. By doing so, you build your creative chops, and increase your guitar skills at the same time. Here are four examples of soloing exercises that you could use in today’s guitar practice session.
- Solo over a static chord with a specific scale or arpeggio.
- Solo on one string at a time to work on fretboard fluency.
- Stick to a four-fret span when soloing over a song or progression.
- Work on a specific outside concept, such as sidestepping or passing notes.
Guitar Practice Routine 3
The last guitar practice routine occurs only once per week, on Thursday. This doesn’t mean that these concepts are any less important than the others. But, because time is short, and you want to maintain balance, you only cover these concepts once every 7 days in your guitar practice routine. As is the case with any element of your routine, if you find that you struggle with ear training or learning songs, you can switch this day with another to cover it twice a week. That is the beauty of this type of practice routine. You can move things around to bring focus to weaker elements, while maintaining daily and weekly balance in your guitar practice routine.
Ear Training – 20 Minutes
One of the most important elements of any practice routine, and the one that many guitarists avoid, is ear training. Though ear training is tough, it’s the biggest reason why you see growth in your playing over time. Now, ear training might not mean what you think it does. For many of us, we have nightmares about singing intervals in music theory class. Or struggling to write down melodies by ear in classical guitar lessons. But, ear training can be fun, if you do it right. In this section, focus on what’s practical for you and your musical goals. This could mean learning songs by ear, or working on transcribing a solo by your favorite guitarist. As long as you work on learning music by ear, and expanding your ability to hear music in the moment, you’re being productive with ear training in your routine. Here are four examples of ear training exercises that you could use in today’s guitar practice session.
- Pick out the chords to a song by ear.
- Learn a riff from a recording.
- Transcribe a solo by ear from your favorite player.
- Sing intervals, scales, arpeggios, or other musical devices.
Learning Songs– 10 Minutes
In the second section of today’s routine, you expand your repertoire as you learn new songs. One of the biggest roadblocks guitarists face, is that you have scales and chords under your fingers, but can’t play a song. So, when you have friends over and someone sees your guitar and asks you to play something, you run through a few scales and it’s a bit awkward. Wouldn’t it be cooler if you could grab your guitar and play a song for yourself, or your friends? Spending time each week learning songs gets you to that level, and gives you a real, tangible, piece of music that you can perform. Here are four examples of song exercises that you could use in today’s guitar practice session.
- Learn the chords to a new song.
- Learn the melody line to a tune, for instrumental guitarists.
- Learn the riffs and/or solo from that same song.
- Learn a song by ear to work ear training as well.
Just as you would when working out at the gym, you don’t need to completely stop studying music on rest days. Instead, you focus on studying concepts away from the guitar in these practice sessions. The two most popular elements that you can study away from the guitar are listening and music theory. Both can be done anywhere, you don’t need a guitar or amp to work them out in your routine. And, they grow your ears and understanding of how music works, even on a rest day. So, though you’re not working your fingers, don’t think that rest day workouts are less productive than days when you’re on your guitar. They can be just as productive, it just takes planning in your guitar practice schedule each week.
Listening – 30 Minutes
As you have two rest days each week, Monday and Friday, you can spread out these concepts in your guitar practice routine. This means spending 30 minutes of listening on Monday, and 30 minutes of music theory on Friday, for example. When working on listening, take time to do focused listening. You probably listen to music for hours a day, but it’s often in the background, or you’re not really paying attention. In this 30-minute routine, spend time listening intently as you grow your ears and expand your musical understanding. Here are four examples of listening exercises that you could use in today’s rest day practice session.
- Listen to a solo you’re learning on repeat.
- Listen to a song you’re learning on repeat.
- Listen to a new album.
- Listen to a new artist you just discovered.
Music Theory – 30 Minutes
The final element in this guitar practice routine is music theory. Again, you can use an entire rest day, 30 minutes, to work on music theory, or you can break it up with listening if you prefer. As was the case with ear training, music theory is extremely helpful in your studies, but many players avoid it. Learning music theory doesn’t have to be boring; create fun exercises and you look forward to studying theory each week. By working on practical theory, such as analyzing songs, or reciting the note names for a scale, you tie theory to your fretboard in your studies. This makes music theory practical, and keeps a focus on other elements of your practice routine going at the same time. Here are four examples of music theory exercises that you could use in today’s rest day practice session.
- Read about a specific theory concept you’re studying.
- Write out theory exercises such as key signatures, scales, chord tones.
- Analyze a song or chord progression you’re learning to play.
- Learn a new musical term such as Coda, refrain, passing tone, etc.
As you can see, you don’t need a ton of time each day in the practice room to grow as a guitarist. By working short, 30-minute sessions, and using a weekly schedule, you maximize your time in the practice room. This organized approach is just what you need to become a better guitarist today.