Learning an instrument takes time and dedication. With the following routine, you’ll feel confident playing the guitar in no time. We’ll review various elements to consider and why they are important. Feel free to shorten this routine as needed or just focus on a few sections at a time.
10 minutes: Scales
Scales. As a budding musician, you probably groan inside when you hear that word, right? Playing scales is not as fun as practicing powerful riffs or strumming along to your favorite song. So, why are they the first thing in our guitar practice routine?
In short, scales are the foundation of all music. While they may seem like boring, repetitive exercises, they provide you with a wealth of knowledge.
By learning the notes in each scale, you develop an understanding of how the notes relate to each other. For example, after practicing the G major scale for a while, you’ll be able to recognize which notes to play for a song in the key of G and pinpoint any wrong notes or mistakes.
Taking it further, this understanding of the notes prepares you for improvisation and harmonizing. Instead of relying on a chord list or sheet music to play every song, you can use your knowledge of scales and how to pair notes to play along with any music.
As an added plus, practicing scales on the guitar gives you valuable finger agility exercise and improves your overall playing abilities.
If you are a beginner guitarist, start by learning the major and minor scales:
- C Major and Minor
- D Major and Minor
- E Major and Minor
- F Major and Minor
- G Major and Minor
- A Major and Minor
- B Major and Minor
- C#/Db Major and Minor
- D#/Eb Major and Minor
- F#/Gb Major and Minor
- G#/Ab Major and Minor
- A#/Bb Major and Minor
For the scales that have two notes listed in the name, don’t get confused! The notes are enharmonic, meaning that they have the same pitch but different names.
Take these scales one at a time, and truly focus on naily the notes cleanly and moving smoothly between them.
Once you feel that you have mastered those (which would be quite an achievement!), that doesn’t mean your scale practice is over. Quite to the contrary! Here are some things you can do to take your scale practice to the next level:
- Play the scales with different rhythms. For example, play them in triplets, staccato sixteenth notes, or with a swing feel.
- Play only the arpeggios.
- Add in new scales, like the chromatic, pentatonic, diminished, and blues scales.
- Explore new guitar modes, such as the Dorian mode.
As you can see, practicing scales isn’t just an exercise for beginners to get them used to the feel of the guitar. Scales are for all players, from beginners to experts. Don’t look at them as a tedious task, but the key to a deeper understanding of the guitar and the music you wish to play.
15 minutes: Chords and Progressions
After practicing some scales, your fingers will be warmed up and ready to dive into those chords.
Just like how there are dozens of scales, there are numerous chords, each with several fingering variations. So, even if you’re a more advanced guitarist, this part of the guitar practice routine is crucial for you, too.
Take some time to look up new chords and fingering variations. For example, you may already know how to play the standard D major chord, but have you mastered all the variations, plus the Dmaj7, D7, D power chord, and D barre chord?
The guitar is an incredibly versatile instrument, and there are always new chords and fingerings to learn. So, take about half this time to study new chords and the second half practicing the progressions. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Focus on Quality
When learning a new chord, take the time to truly learn it. Practice it until you get a clear, beautiful sound. If you still hear the buzzing from misplaced fingertips, don’t use it in your songs, and don’t worry about progressions with that chord.
Don’t Be Afraid of Barre Chords
Beginners can learn barre chords, too. While many players see barre chords as very difficult, the sooner you tackle them, the better. They allow you to use the whole guitar neck to play and open up a world of new chords and songs.
First, focus on getting a clear chord with just the index finger across the fretboard. Then, practice moving your finger up and down the neck of the guitar, getting a nice sound at each fret. Once you have mastered that, you can add in the other fingers.
Take It Slow
Even though your inspiration to play the guitar likely came from a particular song or musician, don’t expect to play that music immediately.
You need to build a foundation of chords, progressions, and finger strength before tackling full songs – which is why chord practice comes before song rehearsal in this routine!
Stretch Those Fingers!
Don’t worry about practicing chord progressions with a song until you are confident that you can quickly change between the positions. Go slowly, with one strum per chord, until the fingerings no longer feel like a stretch. Then, work up to more, faster strumming for each chord as you transition between them.
15 minutes: Song Practice
Once you spend a good 15 minutes on chords, you can start applying them to the guitar song you would like to learn.
Turn on the music and try playing along with the musician. Study the strumming pattern, and try to mimic it, as well. However, if you don’t feel like you have the chord progressions ready to play them at tempo, you can take this time to continue working on them.
Or, if you want to write your own music, you can use this time to practice your song, find the perfect melody, and master the fingerings.
10 minutes: Finger Agility
To wrap up the guitar practice routine, we have two crucial skills exercises. The first one focuses on finger dexterity.
Playing scales definitely helps finger mobility, but there are more exercises you can do. For example, work on some easy fingerpicking songs section by section, focusing on speed and clarity.
These exercises will open the door to more advanced music, improvising, and rocking your own fingerpicking songs.
10 minutes: Listening Practice
As a guitarist, listening and playing by ear is a vital part of learning the instrument. While you can focus on following the given chords or reading and studying sheet music, that will limit your ability to use the guitar to its fullest potential and explore more musical avenues.
As such, practice training your ear so you can improvise, play along with other musicians without needing music, and write your own songs.
Turn on some music and listen closely to the notes. Try to find the same chords and notes on the guitar. You can also try improvising a fingerpicking solo to your favorite song.
Remember, this process requires plenty of patience, so don’t give up after the first day! Keep listening and trying to match the tone.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.