How to Create a Guitar Practice Plan

Published Categorized as Guitar lessons, Other Lessons and Tips
guitar practice plan
By lucas (Guitar practiceUploaded by clusternote) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to make your guitar practice sessions effective and efficient then it’s a great idea to have a guitar practice plan.

Having a plan will ensure that you get the most out of every practice session and this will enable you to progress quickly.

Table of Contents

There are a few things involved in creating an effective practice plan. This is the way that I go about it:

  • Set specific Goals
  • Have an effective warm up routine
  • Incorporating Guitar Lessons
  • Order your sessions
  • Choose a session length and stick to it

Set Specific Goals

The key to setting goals is that your goals are specific. And preferably you want to set goals that you can measure when they are achieved.

Setting a vague goal like “I want my chord transitions to be smoother” is hard to measure and you won’t know how to get there or what to practice to achieve it.

A more specific goal like “I want to transition smoothly from A minor to G major” then you know what to practice – going from A minor to G. And you can measure if you are improving.

If you want to get really technical with this you could set a goal that says “I want to transition smoothly from A minor to G major” then record at the start of your session you going from Amin to G. Then a couple of days later after you have practiced this then record again and compare the two. Now you can really tell the progress you have made.

Once you’ve met one of your goals, set yourself a new goal. And so on.

How To Create A Guitar Practice Plan

Have an Effective Warm Up Routine

If you can create a warm up routine that you play each time you pick up the guitar I find this sets up the session nicely.

Not only does it get your fingers warm but it gets you into that mindset and flow of “right, it’s time to play”.

I like to incorporate things that will keep my technique good. A few basic scales and exercises that, over time, will have you playing more smoothly.

These things may not be the most interesting (which is another reason why they are good to do at the start of your session) but they will get you into your session and will mean that you have worked to improving your playing at the start – it means you’ve already made progress right from the beginning.

Incorporating Guitar Lessons

If you are taking guitar lessons (which I highly recommend that you do whether you are a beginner or a more advanced player) be they in-person or online, then always incorporate the things that you learned in the previous lesson into your plan.

it’s often the case that what you learned in your previous lesson is necessary to know for your next lesson. The sooner that you can master what you were taught in your previous lesson, the faster that your lessons will move.

If you are doing in-person lessons it’s important to master one skill before moving onto the next.

If you are doing online lessons and it’s at your own discretion when you move onto the next lesson, then it’s important that you master one lesson’s teachings before moving onto the next lesson.

This doesn’t mean that your whole session has to be, or should be, doing whatever you learned in the previous lesson. Maybe when you are first starting out that might be the case, but later on you will want to be practicing other things in your practice session – and you will probably want to just play some songs that you enjoy too.

Order Your Sessions

The order of your sessions is important too, in my opinion.

If you get on your guitar and just muck around and play a few songs, jam a little and get distracted you probably aren’t going to fit in any of your important practice time.

On the other hand you also don’t want your sessions to be so boring that you dread practicing, so including doing things that you enjoy is also very important. If you just play scales for 45 minutes you’re probably never going to want to pick the guitar up!

So start out with your warm up, then do the thing that you least want to do. Then work on your previous lesson and then do something that will work towards one of your goals. Then play some songs that you enjoy or do some improvising or whatever it is that you enjoy the most.

Make the most enjoyable thing towards the end so you have something to look forward to. If you then still have the time and motivation you could work on something else.

Choose a Session Length and Stick to It

How long you play for will depend on a number of individual factors.

How serious are you about playing guitar? Are you playing in a band? Are you just learning to be able to do sing-alongs at parties/around the campfire? Are you planning on becoming a professional? Are you planning to go to or currently are attending a music school or studying music at university?

How much time you actually have to spend practicing will also be a major factor.

If you are Quite Serious

If you are really serious and practice for several hours per day it’s still important to limit how much you play in any one session to avoid burnout.

At this point I only play once per day or every other day and only really one session per day usually – but I did go through a time when I was playing anywhere from 2 to 5 hours per day.

When I did this in big chunks at a time I would burnout and not play for a few days. But when I started to play in smaller chunks with regular breaks then I was able to practice more consistently and it was much more enjoyable and effective.

Experiment to see what works for you but I found that playing for 45 minutes and then having a 15 minute break was a great way to practice.

If You are More Casual

Just because you don’t play that often either because you don’t have the time or simply don’t want to play that often, it’s still important to have a practice plan if you want to continue to improve.

You might choose to play for 15 minutes at a time or 45 minutes at a time. But maybe you only play a few times per week.

You still want to have a plan.

I would recommend not playing for more than 45 minutes at a time. If you are really feeling it then you can always pick the guitar back up after you’ve had a bit of a break.

Also I think that consistency is more important than total hours. By that I mean that you are better off playing for 15 minutes 5 times per week than you would be playing 75 minutes one day and then not play for a week.

Check out some other Ideas for Creating a Practice Routine

I also encourage you to check out the following link to see a different approach. You might like to use some of what they have in here as well and add that to what you have learnt here to create the ultimate practice plan for you.

Thanks for Reading

I hope that you have learned some things that will help you to create your own guitar practice plan. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section below.

Also, if you have things that you like to include in your practice sessions or if there’s anything in this post that you disagree with feel free to leave a comment below.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

6 comments

  1. I’m so glad I found your page! I’ve been encouraging my son to take guitar lessons so he can appreciate music even more. I completely agree with all the points you listed here, especially when it comes to setting specific goals. Your input on burnout is also important because it’s so easy to get caught up in lessons but it isn’t exactly a smart way to learn efficiently if you go for long periods of time. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Julie

      Glad you found this helpful. I hope your son will enjoy playing the guitar. A good guitar practice plan will help with learning but also often actually makes practice more enjoyable too – if you do it right.

      Thanks for visiting

  2. Hi Nate,

    Interesting idea about having a guitar practice plan, I started lessons online myself a while back and I usually practice for 30 to 40 minutes a day it`s probably nowhere enough time at the moment, but it fits in with my other learning stuff.

    Like you say playing Scales for 45 minutes will put you off.

    Having a balance of a few tunes and scales is good.

    Also, when you are learning something new or old you have to give it your full attention with no distractions complete concentration it will make a huge difference.

    Cheers,

    Lou

    1. Hey Lou

      Thanks for your thoughts. I’d say if you are practicing 30-40 minutes a day you are doing really well. It’s consistency that makes a big difference.

      I agree also that giving your full attention to your practice sessions will make a huge difference. And if you can give 30-40 minutes of your full attention you will definitely make good progress.

      At one stage I would play in the ads while watching tv or play for a couple of minutes and then do something on the computer and play another couple of minutes – not an effective way to practice at all!

  3. Hi Nate,

    I really enjoyed reading your post! I have always admired guitar players and I can imagine that it requires a lot of practice, determination, and commitment to become really good at it!

    I didn’t realize you could take online courses so I found that to be quite interesting! How much would it be to take a course online versus in-person lessons?

    Your structuring of the sessions is really good advice (start out with what you like doing least and end with what you like doing most). Makes perfect sense and something you should apply to anything you’re learning. Having a plan and consistently sticking to it is the best way to become successful at it!

    1. Hey Anna

      Thanks for your message.

      Online guitar lessons are significantly cheaper than in-person lessons that is one of the big advantages. There are other advantages too. You’re looking at around $100-$200 for a whole year of lessons compared to $1,000 to $5,000 for in person lessons, depending on who you are getting lessons from and how often you take them.

      Of course there are advantages to in person lessons to – the biggest advantage in my opinion is the instant feedback you get.

      For more about the advantages of disadvantages of in person and online lessons check out the link below.

      >>Online Guitar Lessons Vs In Person Guitar Lessons: The Pros And Cons

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