The Ten Key Elements of Real Guitar Practice

by Klaus Crow

guitar practice tips

A lot of guitar players tend to play only what they like or what they already know.

But to become a better guitar player and to get the most out of your practice session you need to focus on different aspects of practicing.

Incorporating these ten key elements into your workout will improve your skills tremendously in many areas.

You'll also have much more fun practicing because you've got a wide variety of things to choose from and they are all valuable tools for your development.

You will expand your guitar vocabulary, knowledge of music theory and train your musical senses. Practicing will become addictive! All the elements strengthen each other and will really speed up your progress.

For those who have little time to practice and are not able to incorporate all these elements into a single workout, just pick two or three for each practice session and the payoff is assured.

Here are the key elements of real guitar practice:


Always start with some exercises to warm up and avoid any injuries. But above all they are there to develop your dexterity, attain flexibility, speed and improve your picking technique.

Start practicing exercises slow, really slow and then gradually speed up. Make sure you play your exercises accurate, clean and clear at all times or you're gonna be building errors in your playing. You don't want to do that. Practice clean and clear!

Chords and strumming

Start learning the basic open chords like C, A, G , E, D, Dm, Am and Em. Then learn barre chords. Continue to learn different chords types like major, minor, major 7, minor 7, dom 7, sus2, sus4, major 6, add9, etc. Learn a few chords every day. For the intermediate and advanced: Learn extended chords, jazz chords and practice them in as many positions possible.

Learn different strumming patterns for each time signature and music styles like blues, reggae, rock, etc. Learn to play rhythm along with a backing track, metronome or with a real drummer and try to stay locked in with the beat. Focus on playing clean and tight.


Scales are the alphabet for playing melody and understanding music and music theory. Learning to play scales is the beginning of learning to improvise on the guitar. If you're a beginner start learning the pentatonic / blues scale and the major scale.

Learn scales in every position and in every key, ascending and descending. If your intermediate or advanced learn other scales like the harmonic minor scale, melodic minor scale, the modes, etc. Check out the Fachords Guitar Scale Generator

Ear training

Developing your musical ear is one of the most important tools you can practice if not the most important. Learn to transcribe songs and do it often. Transcribe chord progressions, solos and different styles of music.

Learn to recognize intervals, sound of different chord types like major, minor, major seven, minor seven, dominant seven, diminished seven, etc, but also recognize open chords like C major, D major, A minor, E minor etc. Learn to sing and identify scales. Learn to sing along with the melody you're playing, then learn to sing the melody after you've played it and even more advanced learn to play what you sing.

Music theory

Each practice session spend some time on music theory. It's one of the most underestimated parts of guitar playing but indescribably important and valuable. It will open the doors to the next level of guitar playing.


Besides learning scales and chords you can focus on practicing triads, intervals, arpeggios, sequences, licks, different styles and technique. Creating a huge vocabulary will allow you to gain more control over your guitar and come up with more creative ideas for you improvisation and compositions.

Sight reading

Depending on your goals, if you want to learn classical music, jazz or want to become a studio musician then sight reading is a must. Besides that, everything you learn about music will make you a better musician and strengthen other areas of your playing.


Once you know how to play your scales, practiced scale sequences and created a vocabulary of licks, triads, intervals, etc, you have the building blocks for your improvisation.

You can learn to create melody on the spot drawing from your guitar vocabulary. To a large extent, improvisation is the creative and intuitive reorganization of things you already know. A process that will keep you challenged for the rest of your guitar playing life.


Take some time to learn the skill of songwriting. Learn to write melody, rhythm, chord progressions and lyrics. There is no one way or best approach for song writing. For example, you can start with lyrics and then come up with a melody for the lyrics and finally add the chords or you can start with a chord progression and then try to sing lyrics and melody that fit the progression. There are many approaches to song writing and you decide what's best.

Capture ideas whenever you can. Make sure you have a piece of recording software installed on your computer, a recording app on your iPad or recording device within reach. Create ideas and melody on the spot and record them. Write down words, lines or pieces of lyrics in a file on your computer or in a cool Moleskine notebook. Save your inspiration anytime and anywhere.

Building repertoire

Building a repertoire is the key to performing and becoming confident about your guitar playing in front of people. Make a list of 10 favorite songs or choose songs for a specific repertoire and work on memorizing those songs.

Learn how to play, sing and perform the songs. Put yourself in front of an audience no matter how big or small and play your songs to build experience, to learn from and improve your playing and performance skills. And most importantly enjoy it!

About the author

Klaus Crow is a guitar teacher and author of

His guitar lifestyle is inspired and influenced by zen, taoism, simplicity, efficiency and effectiveness.

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