Five core tips to get the most out of your practice sessions

Learning guitar is an endless process. No matter how good you are, you can always get better. These tips will help everybody no matter if you are just starting out or have been playing for decades. Favorite this page or print it out so whenever you practice guitar, you can look up and apply these tips to your playing. These five core areas will improve your guitar playing as well as your knowledge.

1. Exercises

Your technical ability will determine how well you can play something. If you have high technical skill, you have the freedom to play without limitations. Exercises will get you there. There are countless exercises on the net so even when you master one exercise there will always be another you can move on to.

Focus on exercises that work different aspects of your playing. Start off with finger exercises to warm your hands up and to stretch them out. I use the exercises in this lesson every day to help stretch my fingers out. Even advanced players like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai use simple finger exercises as warm ups so don’t think they’re just for beginners.

As well as finger exercises, find exercises that teach you techniques. There are plenty of exercises to build your skills in hammer-ons, bends, tapping, string skipping, legato, sweep picking etc. so go find an exercise to develop whatever area of playing you want to be good at.

Lastly, make up your own exercises. If you find an area of your playing you want to develop, try to come up with exercises to build that skill. It isn’t hard and the great thing is you can create exercises for anything. Exercises will give you the freedom to play whatever you need to without worrying about technique.

2. Metronome & Drum loops

If you play guitar, there is a good chance you will want to play along with other musicians such as drummers, other guitarists and even singers. If you can’t play in proper time, other musicians won’t want to play with you. For beginners it is a hard skill but with practice it will become second nature and you will enjoy it so much. Once started, it’s a very easy skill to develop. Start off by playing along with a metronome. A metronome is a device that makes a clicking sound at a constant beat. You can even find free metronome software on the internet that does the same job on your desktop.

Again, find exercises to help develop this skill and get used to playing along with the click of the metronome at different tempos. Once you feel comfortable with metronomes, have a go playing along with a drum loop. You can buy small devices that will play different rhythms in a loop or you can download drum loops off the internet. In the Backing Tracks section of this site, you can find a range of very simple drum beats that you can play along with for free at different tempos.

Play everything along with metronomes and drum loops. Play exercises, chords, improvising, songs, everything! The more you do it, the more you will develop your sense of rhythm.

As a simple way to get started, pick out four cards from out Guitar Flash Cards Pack and strum each chord four times along with the beat. This simple exercise will help you get used to playing in time.

3. Improvising

Most people start learning guitar because they want to write songs and create music. Well unless you ‘practice’ creating music, it will be very hard to do it. Luckily, there is a way we can develop our creative abilities and it is called improvising. This core area of playing is so essential and yet so many people neglect it. Unless you learn to improvise, you will struggle to create music. Now don’t freak out, many people think of improvising as coming up with these amazing solos off the top of their heads. Eventually you may develop your improvising skills to do that, but even coming up with a simple melody or chord combinations are basic ways of improvising.

Start off very simple, play random notes of a pentatonic scale over a backing track or drum loop. Just get used to playing anything. Eventually you will get the feel of what sounds good and what doesn’t so you will naturally move away from playing random notes to something that makes more sense. This process continues as long as you keep practicing. Eventually you will know what notes will sound good before you even play them. The important point is to start. If you don’t start you cannot improve.

4. Music theory

Many people freak out when they hear those two words. Most people don’t understand music theory and many don’t want to learn it as they think it will take away from their creativity. An understanding of music theory can help your creativity and songwriting if you use it the right way. When you understand how chords are put together, you can create your own unique sounding chords. When you understand how scales are put together, you can create amazing sounding melodies. If you don’t understand either, you will need to guess and fumble your way through. So every time you sit down to practice, learn a bit about music theory and more importantly, try to apply it to your playing. The more you understand music theory, the more doors will open in front of you.

5. Songs

Learning to play other people’s songs will open your eyes to ways of playing that you wouldn’t have come up with on your own. Everybody will play guitar different so you can always learn something different by studying and playing other people’s songs. When learning a song, try to ask yourself questions like “what was the guitarist thinking when writing this?”, “what scales was s/he playing and why did s/he choose those chords?”, “what emotion is s/he trying to express?” etc. The more you understand about other people’s playing and songwriting, the more you can improve your own.


If you work on each five core areas every time you sit down to practice, I guarantee your playing will improve. Eventually you will notice that all five areas are very closely joined together. For example, you can create exercises (1) for tips 2, 3, 4 & 5 the same way that music theory (4) will help you understand and improve 2, 3 & 5. The more you work on these areas, the more you will see the link between them. If you neglect one area, another will suffer so really try to keep a balance and work on all of them.