Tammy Broccas October 30, 2019
man playing guitar beginner

You’ve finally decided to trade in your air guitar for a real one. Now what?

Learning to play the guitar is one of the most popular hobbies to pick up, and rightly so. Playing this instrument offers a diverse array of benefits, from relaxation to aiding in learning. Plus, you get cool points for knowing how to play popular tunes.

But if you want to become more than a mere beginner and your dreams go beyond playing covers, you have to put in the time and effort needed to master the craft of guitar playing.

Here are some tips that can help you achieve that goal.


You could buy the best guitar, amps, pedals, and other gear, but these won’t compensate for a lack of skill. Now, what is the best way to develop guitar playing skills? It’s by practicing.

While there is some contention to the number of hours needed to master a new skill (author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours), what is essential is that you set aside time to practice guitar playing regularly.

It doesn’t matter whether you practice during the weekends only or daily for half an hour. The important thing is to pick up your beloved axe and practice purposefully, regularly.

What does it mean to practice purposefully? First, it means having a clear goal for each session. Second, it also means practicing skills until you have completely mastered it. It can be as simple as learning how to do barre chords properly or something more advanced like mastering the fretboard.

Think: Theoretical vs. Practical

What should you practice? While it is tempting to simply watch guitar covers and tutorials on YouTube, you can progress faster as a budding musician by putting some structure into your practice time.

In learning to play a musical instrument like the guitar, there are two important things that you should try to learn: theory and application or the practical side of things.

In simple terms, theory refers to the side of guitar playing that involves the mental aspect. That includes fretboard mastery, chord structures, and the relationship of notes. Learning theories often consists of a lot of reading and analysis of diagrams. And although there are plenty of guitarists who claim that they don’t know any musical theory, it doesn’t hurt to know a few, especially if you are keen on making the jump from hobbyist to a musician.

The practical side of practice is putting the theories that you learned into your actual playing. For beginners, this may include chord changes, strumming patterns, and picking techniques.

Whether you are a novice or an advanced-level guitarist, you should set aside time for both the theoretical and practical aspects of guitar practicing.

Zero in on your weaknesses

In the beginning, and sometimes even if you have progressed substantially, you may find yourself stuck in one particular area. It could be on a strumming pattern, or chord changes, or any other thing.

While it is frustrating to get stuck on a particularly tricky exercise or part of a song, you can overcome that with patience and diligence.

Anytime you feel stuck, the first thing that you need to do is focus solely on that area. For example, if you can’t nail down the chorus of a song, don’t start playing the song from the beginning. Instead, keep on practicing the chorus until you get everything right.

Try something new

Don’t shy away from new things. It can be as simple as trying out a new song or something more complicated like a different tuning.

As a musician, feeding yourself with new knowledge provides you with the materials for growth and evolution. Adding new skills will help you become a better guitarist.

Listen to different genres and instrumentalists

Perhaps you have set your sights on being a specialist in a particular style like Punk, Thrash, or Folk music.

But it doesn’t hurt to listen to other musical genres or even masters of different instruments. In between listening to your guitar idols, why not consider listening to (and analyzing) the styles of musicians you would otherwise dismiss? You might find a few exciting things that you can integrate into your own musical style.

Noodle around

You don’t necessarily have to practice every time you pick up your guitar. Messing about by playing a few licks or bars of a new song is just as crucial as a structured practice session.

Noodling around is an excellent way to put ideas you may have into practice, as well as to unleash your creativity.

However, noodling shouldn’t interfere with structured practice. Your practice sessions should concentrate on the theoretical and practical side of skill-building and not playing around.

Create a practice diary

It’s normal to feel frustrated when you are stumped by a particular skill that you are trying to develop. One way to overcome that is to look at the progress you have made through a practice diary.

What should you include in this diary? Ideally, you should include the dates, hours of practice, specific skills that you practice, as well as a few notes for yourself.

As you continue to grow, you will see how far you’ve come, inspiring you to keep playing your instrument and honing your skills.

Pushing through frustrations

In the beginning, it may seem like you are not making any kind of progress, and you might be thinking of stopping altogether.

But remember, even the masters like Clapton, Van Halen, Iommi, and Malmsteen all started out as beginners. Just keep at it. With regular and consistent practice, you will soon see progress.

Practice regularly and consistently, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Don’t get overwhelmed by spreading yourself too thin, trying to learn several skills at once. Take things one at a time and learn at your own pace. You are not competing against anyone. Enjoy playing your instrument and focus on yourself. Before you know it, you’ve become the guitarist that you set yourself up to be.

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