Welp, here we are. Instead of grabbing your guitar and practicing, you decided to distract yourself with articles about practicing instead. ಠ_ಠ

We appreciate you choosing us as your outlet for procrastination. Let’s quickly cover the dos and don’ts of guitar practice, but after that, you’ve got to grab that guitar and get to work! Deal?

The minimum time you should spend practicing guitar

Whatever your level, it's important to establish a consistent practice routine.

We all love to sit down and just noodle, but If you want to see real progress you’ve got to develop a habit of structured guitar playing.

Unfortunately, there are no laws in place requiring guitarists to practice a minimum amount of time every week. However, if we were in charge of the world – 30 minutes of focused practice 5 days per week would be mandatory.

Notice, we said focused practice. That means:

  • Focus on specific techniques and exercises
  • Work on them slowly and accurately
  • Apply new skills in a musical context
  • Don’t check your phone every 30 seconds while practicing!

As you become more comfortable with your instrument and develop better technique, you may find that you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend practicing each day.

However, it's always better to start with a manageable amount of practice time and build from there, rather than overwhelming yourself with too much at once.

How long is too long to practice guitar?

If you manage to build up to four hours of guitar practice a day, you should probably draw the line right about there.

Research suggests that practicing too much can be counterproductive for musicians. Over-practicing can lead to:

  • Physical injury
  • Mental exhaustion
  • Burn out

Studies have shown that musicians who practiced for more than three hours per day were at a higher risk of developing playing-related issues such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you’re worried about injuring yourself or you already know that you get obsessed and are prone to overdoing it, do yourself a favor and check out our article on finger stretches for guitar. You’ll find some helpful tips on how to avoid injuries.

There is also evidence to show that you get diminishing returns when practicing for more than four hours.

  • The brain is like a muscle – without adequate rest, it’ll just get fatigued.
  • Your focus and retention drop the longer you go on without a break.
  • There reaches a point where you’re no longer making decent progress.

Sleep works like magic for guitar practice – our brain keeps working on stuff overnight!  

You’ll often find the thing you were struggling to play feels easier when you pick the guitar up the next day.

Choosing the right amount of time to practice guitar

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this, but we can give you some guidelines. It all depends on how fast you want to progress and at what level of guitar playing you want to achieve.

We’ve come up with five different levels of proficiency.

Level 1: Develop a hobby

  • Time investment: 30 minutes
  • Days per week: 4-5
  • Goals: Have fun
  • Ideas on what to practice: Open chords, strumming patterns, basically whatever interests you

Level 2: Learn popular songs

  • Time investment: 45 minutes - 1 hour
  • Days per week: 5-6
  • Goals: Build up a song repertoire
  • Ideas on what to practice: Barre chords, common chord progressions, basic fingerpicking patterns, basic music theory, songs you love!

Level 3: Jam with other musicians

  • Time investment: 1-2 hours
  • Days per week: 5-7
  • Goals: Improvise over common chord progressions
  • Ideas on what to practice: Licks from your favorite guitarists, the pentatonic scale in a couple of positions, switching between rhythm and lead parts, playing along with backing tracks

Level 4: Perform and release music

  • Time investment: 2-4 hours
  • Days per week: 5-7
  • Goals: Writing songs, preparing a live set
  • Ideas on what to practice: applied music theory, songs in the genre that you want to write in, performing in front of a camera/your friends/open mic nights, being able to sing and play guitar at the same time

Level 5: Become a pro

  • Time investment: 3-4 hours
  • Days per week: 6-7
  • Goals: Play and record guitar parts with and for other musicians, Perform your own music or perform with other professional musicians, teach guitar
  • Ideas on what to practice: At this level, you should be aware of weak points in your knowledge and technical ability – create a practice routine to strengthen those areas.

Remember that these are only rough guidelines. Everyone learns at a different pace.

There might be times when you have other obligations that stand in the way of practicing guitar. It happens. Your motivation and stamina might ebb and flow.

We’re only humans so try to find a good balance between hard work and rest.

Six factors to consider for a successful guitar practice session

If you have aspirations to perform with a band or to play guitar at a professional level, your practice time becomes very valuable since you can’t stay focused for about more than four hours. Make every moment count!

Focus on quality, not quantity, when you practice guitar

Below are the most important questions to ask yourself when planning your practice sessions, followed by tips on how to improve the time you spend practicing.

  • Focus: Are you fully engaged and focused during your practice session?
  • Goals: Have you set clear goals for what you want to accomplish during your practice session?
  • Technique: Are you using proper technique when playing your guitar?
  • Repetition: Are you practicing your guitar exercises and techniques repeatedly to build muscle memory?
  • Feedback: Are you receiving feedback on your playing?
  • Variety: Are you incorporating a variety of exercises and techniques into your practice session?

Create the perfect practice environment

Everybody’s goals are a bit different, so below are some general action items, to improve the quality of your practice session based on the six factors mentioned above: focus, goals, technique, repetition, feedback, and variety.

Focus – Eliminate distractions

  • Turn off your phone!
  • Try to find a space where other people don’t interrupt you.
  • Do whatever you can to ensure that your mind isn’t wandering while you practice.

Goals – Pick goals that matter to you

  • Make sure the exercises or songs you choose to study match the outcome you’re hoping for.
  • No need to learn 30 jazz chord voicings if you want to play lead guitar in a rock band.
  • Try to set measurable goals so you can monitor your progress.

Technique – Practice makes permanent

  • Proper technique is essential for building good habits and avoiding injury.
  • If you’re making mistakes during practice, slow things down or pick something that is more achievable.
  • If you practice a new exercise or technique sloppily, you’ll be applying it sloppily.
  • Get it right from the start. Muscle memory works both ways – play something wrong enough times and you’ll have to put in extra work to undo it later!

Repetition – When playing guitar becomes second nature

  • Repetition is essential for developing muscle memory, which allows you to play more efficiently and accurately.
  • You want certain things to feel so easy that you can turn on auto-pilot.
  • If you want to perform, you’ll be less nervous when you can play your parts half asleep.

Feedback – Assess your playing

  • Getting feedback can help you identify areas where you need to improve and make adjustments accordingly.
  • You can record yourself and listen back to your playing.
  • Hiring a teacher or working with a mentor is also a great way to get feedback.
  • When you study with Pickup Music, you can submit videos of you playing and our progressional guitarists will provide feedback.

Variety – Keep your guitar practice interesting

  • Mixing things up can help you stay engaged and make progress in different areas of your playing.
  • When you choose items you want to work on, be sure to cover different topics like rhythm, harmony, melody, improvising, learning songs, or music theory.
  • Find a balance between practicing exercises, and applying those new skills to real music.

Why am I occasionally filled with rage while practicing guitar?

There’s usually a simple reason we get frustrated while practicing (and it’s not always just because we suck). Take a deep breath and try these:

  • Take a break. Don’t smash the guitar. Just put it down for a few minutes and reset.
  • Slow down! If you keep messing up something new, you’re playing it too fast.
  • Warm up more. If you’re attempting something particularly difficult and it’s not going well you might not be fully warmed up yet.

Common mistakes when you practice guitar

If your attention span didn’t hold out through the whole article, here’s a reminder of some common mistakes guitarists make when practicing:

  • Not being Zen enough – Remove all worldly distractions.
  • No structure – Have a set time and goals before starting.
  • Poor technique – Practice new things cleanly, not quickly.
  • Not signing up to Pickup Music – Probably the biggest mistake you can make. We offer free 14-day trials, so you really have no excuse.

What are you waiting for? Get practicing!

Author: Julia Mahncke