The Number One Reason You’re Not Getting Better at Guitar

The Number One Reason You’re Not Getting Better at Guitar

by Will Flaherty

Practice vs Playing

When students aren’t seeing the results they want I ask them to consider the time and quality of their practice sessions. When they really think about it, something becomes clear – most of their practice time, wasn’t spent practicing at all! They play through an exercise a few times, then start noodling or jamming on a riff or song they can already play well. There is a time to play and there is a time to practice! Noodling during a practice session is a complete waste of time. It’s also the number one reason most guitar players aren’t seeing the progress they want!

You Must Become Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

So why do people noodle so much? As human beings, we want to avoid pain. We want to avoid being uncomfortable at all costs. It’s much more fun to play something well than to butcher something new. Being uncomfortable, is something you need to learn to embrace. Practicing things you’re already good at will not make you a better player! It’s time to become uncomfortable!

Making A Plan

Over my years of teaching private guitar lessons. One huge deciding factor I’ve seen, between those that achieve their goals and those that don’t – proper planning. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, failing to plan, is planning to fail. I find this to be extremely true.


What Are Your Goals?

Before making a plan, you need to define your overall goals. Write them down, in order of importance. If you’re a beginner, your goals might be something like: getting faster at changing open chords, master moving power chords and memorizing the five Pentatonic scale patterns. If you’re an intermediate player, goals could be getting faster at alternate picking, mastering the Major Scale and it’s modes. These are just examples, make sure you write down your own.


Step by Step

Now that you know what your goals are, you need to focus on exercises and material that will help you achieve them. If you’re not sure what exercises to practice, consider hiring a reputable guitar teacher for a few lessons to show you what you need to practice. You can also leave a comment on our guitar lesson forum and ask for some help picking appropriate material. The material should be progressive, starting at your current skill level and building towards the final goal.

Write It Down

Most people have a finite amount of time to practice. So, it’s important to make sure you’re making the most of this time. Therefore, you need to have your practice sessions planned out ahead of time. This needs to be specific and written out! For example, if you were a beginner and only had 30 minutes to practice per day. A good practice session might look like this:


  1. C to G chord change – 2.5 mins
  2. G to D chord change – 2.5 mins
  3. C, G and D Chord Progression – 5 mins
  4. Minor Pentatonic Position 1 – 5 mins
  5. Minor Pentatonic Position 2 – 5 mins
  6. First Riff from Rock You Like A Hurricane (Power Chord Practice) – 10 mins


How to Maintain Focus

Now you have a written practice session, great! The next tool in your arsenal should be some type of audible timer. I can’t stress enough the importance of using a timer! This keeps you focused on the task at hand and lets you know when it’s time to move on. Make sure to make notes on what exercises, riffs, licks, etc. are giving you the most difficulty at the end of each session. Then double the amount of time you practice those exercises and cut in half the time you practice the ones that are easier for you.


Record & Track Your Progress

Make a habit of recording your practice sessions. This makes it easy to hear improvement in your playing over time. You may even be surprised to find you’re making mistakes you didn’t hear while practicing. You should also keep a record of the tempos you’ve worked up to, on the various exercises you’re working on. That lets you know where to start during your next session.


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