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How to fit guitar practice into your everyday life

Finding time for guitar practice
(Image credit: martin-dm / Getty)

A weird thing happens when you taking up a new hobby. You’ve enjoyed your lessons, and you promise you’re going to practice every day. And then that just... doesn’t happen. Despite your best intentions, you’ve gone backwards.

A big problem is feeling like you ought to practice a lot, but you can actually make yourself a better guitarist just by picking up the instrument for a brief moment. 

In 10 seconds you can try a new chord. In 30 seconds you can improve a riff. In 60 seconds you can drill a chord change. Better yet, when you finish you’ll want to keep going, and that’ll inspire you to come back. 

The only bad day is one where you don’t practice at all. You’ll need to work out what’s stopping you from practicing. It’s different for everyone, but here are some common obstacles:

Your guitar is miles away

If you’ve got five minutes, it’s not going to happen if your electric guitar is at the back of a cupboard. Keep your guitar on a stand, ready to go. If it’s already plugged in, even better. Seeing it will also remind you to play.

You don’t know when you’ll practice

If you just tell yourself “I need to practice at some point”, chances are it’ll get pushed down the list until you get to bed and realize you never did it. If you’ve got a plan – “I’m going to practice at 6:30 while my rice is boiling” – it’s more likely to happen.

Your guitar is not available

If you commute on public transport, you could still improve by looking at fretboxes and memorizing chord shapes, or trying to visualize yourself playing them. Pro athletes improve their performance by visualizing when they can’t train. Or you could get an app to learn the notes on the fretboard or do some ear training.

You’re too tired

You need some low-effort stuff to practice. We’ve got you covered below...

Ready to rock!

Keep a guitar at hand and you’ll always be able to find time to practice...

Finding time for guitar practice

(Image credit: Future)

1. Play per view

Keep your guitar near to where you sit, even in your living room. TV ad breaks are long enough to play a Ramones song.

Finding time for guitar practice

(Image credit: Future)

2. Quick riffs

Waiting on Zoom? Get a quick riff in. Or play for a minute at the beginning of your break. If you’re watching YouTube, see if you can play a chord before the ‘skip ad’ icon appears.

Finding time for guitar practice

(Image credit: Future)

3. Soul kitchen

With a guitar strap, you can practice in the kitchen. Boiling a kettle takes 2 minutes. Microwaved soup will give you a whopping 3 minutes, maybe more!

Finding time for guitar practice

(Image credit: Future)

4. The old switcheroo

Pick any two chords, and count how many times between them in one minute. Next time you practice, try to beat your score.

Finding time for guitar practice

(Image credit: Future)

5. E Minor pentatonic scale

At 60bpm, one note per beat, this scale takes 23 seconds to play up and down. You can definitely find that much time!

Four separate ultra-short exercises

(Image credit: Future)

1. Arpeggiated chord

Pluck the strings one at a time, making sure they sound clear. Repeat three times, then stop.

Finding time for guitar practice

(Image credit: Future)

2. Palm-muted chug

This is easy, and sounds huge. Focus on getting just the right amount of muting.

(Image credit: Future)

3. Pull-off riff

This riff takes eight seconds. See how many times you can play it in a minute. No excuses!

Finding time for guitar practice

(Image credit: Future)

4. Tremolo picking

Pick each note with alternating up- and downstrokes. Try to make the upstrokes feel easy.

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Jenna writes for Total Guitar and Guitar World, and is the former classic rock columnist for Guitar Techniques. She studied with Guthrie Govan at BIMM, and has taught guitar for 15 years. She's toured in 10 countries and played on a Top 10 album (in Sweden).