How you practice is the most significant determining factor of how fast you will progress with your guitar playing. Most guitar players confuse practice with the time they spend playing their guitar. If you want to get the most out of your practice time, you must learn how to practice correctly and efficiently.


Basic practice is playing your guitar with no goal or vision of what needs to be improved. It often involves playing through things you already know and often functions as a review session. Unfortunately, there is no real growth in this type of practice. Even long practice sessions do not yield significant improvements when using basic practice methods. Basic practice can lead to frustration because you are putting in the time, but since you are not pushing yourself to work outside your comfort zone, there is often no reliable improvements in your playing. Basic practice can also include the time spent watching videos or reading articles where you are acquiring new knowledge but not getting the hands-on training you need.


Purposeful practice happens when you have well-defined goals that push you out of your comfort zone. It is best to have your mind fully engaged and focused on what you are trying to achieve. You need to measure your improvements: how many perfect repetitions, what tempo you can play, and how many items you have memorized. Purposeful practice will push you and make you struggle because learning something new is usually uncomfortable. You will practice something you can not currently do, refining it until you finally get it down. You will identify and eliminate any weaknesses in the process. This type of practice requires feedback for it to be efficient. You should seek out the help of a qualified teacher, coach, or trainer that can give advice and guidance along the way. It is much easier, and you will progress faster when you surround yourself with the right people who share your passion, encourage you, support you, and celebrate your victories. Even if you only practice for a half-hour to an hour a day, you will see a noticeable improvement in your abilities when you use purposeful practice. By using this method, you can become an outstanding guitar player.


If you desire to be a professional musician, then deliberate practice is for you. Andres Ericson defines deliberate practice as “Engagement with full concentration in a training activity designed to improve a particular performance aspect with immediate feedback, gradual refinement, and problem-solving.” Deliberate practice is similar to purposeful practice but is much more intense. Deliberate practice is challenging, often uncomfortable, and tiring but it does get big results. Using deliberate practice, you should start with small twenty to thirty-minute increments and slowly build up to being able to practice a few hours every day. This type of practice includes intense mental practice and extremely high levels of concentration, resulting in many people who use it having to sleep or nap more often to give themselves mental recovery time.

Whether you choose to use purposeful practice techniques or the more intense deliberate practice, a qualified teacher, coach or trainer is necessary to get the best results. A teacher will know the order for you to learn new material, the best training methods, and demonstrate the correct way of doing something. People who try to learn on their own often choose the wrong order or training methods for their current skill level, costing them valuable time and leading to unnecessary frustration.    

About the author: Brian Fish is a professional guitarist living in Northeast Ohio and is an expert guitar instructor at  Guitar Lessons Geauga.