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A beginner guitar practice regimen

I played a little bit of guitar 20 years ago and took formal lessons at the time. After spending literally a couple of decades away, I decided to pick the instrument up again.

I don't have ambitions beyond learning some songs, maybe writing a few tunes, purely for myself. I don't have a desire to be on stage again. That context is important because I've tailored my practice to my own needs and where I want to go with this hobby.

That said, I thought a bit of a write up might be useful to someone looking to get started.

My starting point is as follows:#

  • I already know how to read music
  • I have a bit of familiarity with the instrument
  • I'm treating this like a hobby, not a path to a career

I have goals, but performance is not one of them. My goals are:#

  • Get comfortable enough to be able to learn my favorite songs at will
  • Learn the fretboard as well as I know the piano keyboard (can visualize in my head)
  • Learn to comfortably read both tabs and standard notation
  • Keep it fun

With that all in mind, here is my daily-ish practice regimen. I use a couple of interval timers that I have set up for various lengths so if I only have 15 minutes or if I have more than a half hour, I have an organized, productive session. Stretches and warm-ups are non-negotiable. I then do any combination of the practice options with the remaining time.

Prep#

  • Choose a book lesson
  • Choose a video lesson
  • Choose a song of the day
  • Tune the guitar
  • Settle myself in the space

Practice (total 15-45 minutes)#

Stretches (3 min)#

  • massage hands and forearms
  • lock elbow and stretch each finger back
  • pull each finger down, wave other fingers
  • stretch thumb back, wave other fingers
  • stretch thumb to palm, wave other fingers
  • stretch between each pair of fingers
  • stretch whole hand side to side
  • stretch whole hand up and down
  • massage tips
  • stretch hand fully out, then relax

Warm up (5 min)#

  • Spider exercise (from Art of Guitar)
  • Movable spider (from Art of Guitar)
  • A minor scale (or any scale of choice)
  • Chromatic scale

Practice (5-10 min each option, 1-2 min break between)#

I do at least one of these (the short session) and most days do all of them. I often end up going over my planned timeframe, especially with the song of the day, because I'm having a good time! I try to make sure I stop before my hands get too tired.

  • A lesson from book
  • A couple videos from Art of Guitar
  • A song of the day

Cool down (3 min)#

  • Repeat the stretches

Resources#

Book#

This is the book I worked from 20 years ago. It's useful if you know how to read music because it skims over that area rather quickly. Most useful if you have a teacher or can confidently self-teach.

A Modern Method for Guitar - Volume 1 by William Leavitt (older version on archive.org)

Course#

This course feels a lot like it used to feel when I was taking lessons. There are a couple of other really good online guitar courses out there as well, but I felt most comfortable with this instructor.

The Art of Guitar

Tabs#

From what I've seen, this is the best resource for guitar tabs and music. I did pay for a year to get access to the "official" versions which have some really powerful tools for learning and playing along with songs. I've found this useful for not just learning songs but also getting some interesting practice in (any song with arpeggios!) and driving questions (how does a hammer-on work?).

Ultimate Guitar

Misc#

These are a few of the tools I use for running my practice sessions.