3 things your guitar practice sessions MUST include

Here is the question I always get from my students: What should you practice during your guitar practice sessions?

Well, there are many things you could include, but in my experience as a guitar player and teacher, I’ve learned there are 3 things you must include in every guitar practice session.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are the most important things.

Let’s dive in!

#1 Guitar Picking 

I’ve seen this happen (and fell prey to it myself). You practice and get pretty good, but then when you want to improve to a higher level, you notice things aren’t going as well as you wanted. Your picking skills can’t follow the tougher levels of lead or melody playing.

Maybe your strumming is too simple to follow more complicated rhythms and patterns.

What’s the problem? You didn’t spend enough time slowing down and building up your picking fluency.

It’s not pretty or exciting, but you need to get to the point where you can find your way around individual strings without looking at quick speeds.

Every practice session needs to include at least 5 minutes of this, or you’ll fall behind and need to catch up later.

Try this simple exercise:

  1. Starting with the thick E string (or 6), pick it 8 times slowly using a downward motion.
  2. Move to picking the next string (A or 5) and do the same thing.
  3. Move through the other strings picking them down 8 times.
  4. Now, work your way back to the E6 string one at a time (again, downpicking 8 times).
  5. Repeat the above steps, but now pick upwards 8 times each.
  6. Repeat again, but this time alternate between up and down 8 times.

This is simple, but I still do this as part of my everyday warmup, even after many years of playing.

There are more advanced ones we’ll talk about in later emails, but this should be enough to get you started.

Do this exercise with a metronome at 60 beats per minute. Once you complete all the steps, do it again at 70 beats per minute. Keep speeding up until you’re at 140 beats per minute.

This metronome online works pretty well.

#2 Chord Transitions

Switching from chord to chord quickly is critical for any guitarist. Take the time in every practice session to slow down and master the transitions from chords you know well and ones you don’t know yet.

Again, use a metronome to start slowly and gradually speed up when you can switch between your target chords smoothly 10 times in a row.

For example, if I’m targeting G->C->D->G chord progression. I’d play each chord 4 times and then move to the next. My goal is to make that moment of switching as smooth as possible and stay right with the metronome’s beat.

#3 Something You Rock On

This may seem silly, but it makes perfect sense if you think about it. Your biggest danger in learning guitar is your attitude. It’s too easy to get down on yourself and quit.

This is why you need to play something you’re good at every single practice session. Even if it’s just for fun, play this song you’re good at to help you remember how fun guitar can be. I usually end with one of these songs. For me, it’s House of the Rising Sun, True Colors, or The Bell Cow.

Include these 3 things in every practice session, and you’ll avoid the biggest problems:

  • Falling behind with picking
  • Having uncoordinated chord transitions
  • Losing motivation due to frustration
3 things your guitar practice sessions MUST include
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3 things your guitar practice sessions MUST include