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How to practice guitar

How to practice guitar
Lynyrd Skynyrd 3 guitars and one bass - Cliff Smith Guitar Lessons London

This is a very common question that I am asked by new guitar pupils – “How should I practice guitar?”

Why practice guitar?

The first question to ask yourself is “Why am I practicing guitar?”. Do you have a particular goal in mind? Is there a particular song you want to learn, a guitar solo that needs shredding? Maybe you want to ‘learn the neck’. Perhaps you have a gig or audition coming up?

What should I practice on the guitar?

Once you have figured out why you are practicing guitar, it’s time to make a guitar practice plan!

Let’s take a new song as an example. Let’s say you want to learn ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynryd. The first question would be – “Which skills do I need to be able to play this song?”. Have a look through the TAB and you’ll see that you need:

  • Mastery of open and barre chords
  • Reasonable scale knowledge
  • A decent left hand stretch
  • Techniques: palm muting, string bends, slides, hammer-ons, pull offs, natural harmonics, pinched harmonics

Let’s say that you can play the riffs, but the solos are way out of your league. If you are to have any hope of learning those solos, you are going to have to get your lead technique up to scratch…

Now you have something to work on!

Make a guitar practice plan

Then comes the plan:

  1. Learn the scales/arpeggios that are relevant to the solo (in this case it’s mainly E blues, Em pentatonic/D mixolydian) in all 5 positions
  2. Practice the scales with a metronome and build them up to a tempo suitable to the solos
  3. Jam over the track with the scales and see if you can get them to work – include the techniques that you discovered are in the solo
  4. Learn the solos one at a time, lick by lick, SLOWLY!

The above may take you 6 months to a year, but at the end of it you will have greatly improved your guitar technique and will be happy that you were organised about your guitar practice! Plus you will have achieved your goal and will be ripping Sweet Home Alabama!

I learn guitar solos lick by lick, often at a much slower tempo than the desired speed. I make sure that my technique and phrasing is solid before speeding up. I use a metronome for this and recommend that you do too.

How to practice guitar

That was just an example, but you can apply the method to anything that you are learning:

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Which skills do you need to achieve it?
  3. Do you have all of those skills?
  4. Work on your skills if necessary, then be methodical in your approach to practice.

Or, you could always pay a great guitar teacher to do all the planning for you and guide you through every step!

I hope that this helped! Please leave a comment if you have a question or something to add.

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