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The essential tool for an effective practice routine is keeping a practice journal.

When your practice session is short, it is difficult to see results.  By keeping a practice journal, you see tangible results as you record your daily exercises and achievements.  If you don’t think you’re growing, look at your journal for the past few months to see where you were and where you are now. You’ll be surprised that you’ve learned a lot of new material, increased your bpm with technique exercises, and spent less time each day to learn new concepts on the fretboard.


If you’re struggling to reach a specific goal, journaling helps you figure out what’s working for other areas of your routine. You then apply similar techniques to the concept you’re struggling with to overcome those roadblocks in your practice.   Though it may seem strange at first, a practice journal is one of the most effective ways to see progress and grow in the short and long term.


Recording Practice Sessions

Alongside journaling, another highly effective practice tool is recording your practice sessions. You can listen back to those practice sessions the next day, week, or month, to hear your improvement over time.  You can also listen to problem areas, allowing you to address those areas when you’re not focused on playing them at the moment during an exercise.

Listening back, taking notes on what’s working and what’s not, helps you quickly address those issues, and enhances your strengths, during these sections of your routine.

Daily Guitar Practice Breakdown

 Modification of Matt Warnock's Method

1.Chords and Chord Progressions – 15 Minutes


As a guitarist in a band or jam setting, you spend most of your time playing rhythm guitar.

Because of this, spending 20 minutes a day prepares you to function in a band, as well as take your rhythm guitar chops to the next level.

Here are four examples of chord exercises that you could use in today’s session

  • Develop specific chord shapes, such as barre chords or drop 3 chords.

  • Learn inversions for any chord type, i.e. m7.

  • Practice a chord progression in multiple keys, i.e. I-vi-IV-V.

  • Work on playing the chords, in a few positions, for a song you’re learning.

2. Technique – 15 Minutes

Scales and Arpeggios  

Though many guitarists love to learn scales and arpeggios, sometimes this side of your practicing is the source of an unbalanced routine.

To keep these items in your routine, but not overdo it as some guitarists do, consider working on scales and arpeggios for 10 minutes 

Remember, set specific practice goals for this section.

Here are four examples of scale and arpeggio exercises that you could use in today’s session.

  • Learn a new scale in 12 keys.

  • Play a mode and its related arpeggios in all keys.

  • Run a practice pattern through a new scale.

  • Play one, two, and three-octave arpeggios shapes for a chord type, i.e. maj7,


Building technique on the guitar makes anything you play smoother and easier on the fretboard.

The technique doesn’t just mean playing fast.

Having a strong guitar technique means building dexterity, flexibility, strength, and speed in both your picking and fretting hands.

Because of this, work a variety of technical exercises in this section of your practice routine to develop strong fundamentals.


Here are four examples of technique exercises that you could use in today’s guitar practice session.

  • Speed drills with a metronome, steadily increasing the speed.

  • Legato exercises through scales or finger patterns.

  • Alternate picking, fingerpicking, or hybrid picking exercises.

  • Stretching exercises to work on fretting-hand dexterity


3. Soloing – 10 Minutes

One thing to watch in this section is that you don’t just randomly solo over chords or chord progressions.

This won’t help you grow as a soloist. Instead, soloing with a specific goal produces better results in the practice room.


Solo over a progression, but you only use one scale fingering, one part of the neck, one outside concept, etc.

By doing so, you build your creative chops and increase your guitar skills at the same time.


Here are four examples of soloing exercises that you could use 

  • Solo over a static chord with a specific scale or arpeggio.

  • Solo on one string at a time to work on fretboard fluency.

  • Stick to a four-fret span when soloing over a song or progression.

  • Work on a specific outside concept, such as sidestepping or passing notes.


4.  Learning Songs– 15 Minutes- till you are done

Expand your repertoire as you learn new songs.  This is where you will most likely gravitate towards anyway.  Be careful not to just do this step.

One of the biggest roadblocks guitarists face is that you have scales and chords under your fingers, but can’t play a song.

So, when you have friends over and someone sees your guitar and asks you to play something, you run through a few scales and it’s a bit awkward.


Spending time each week learning songs gets you to that level, and gives you a real, tangible, piece of music that you can perform.

Here are four examples of song exercises that you could use in today’s guitar practice session.

  • Learn the chords to a new song.

  • Learn the melody line to a tune, for instrumental guitarists.

  • Learn the riffs and/or solo from that same song.

  • Learn a song by ear to work ear training as well.


5. Ear Training – 10 Minutes

One that many guitarists avoid, is ear training. Though ear training is tough, it’s the biggest reason why you see growth in your playing over time.

Now, ear training might not mean what you think it does

Ear training can be fun if you do it right.

In this section, focus on what’s practical for you and your musical goals.

This could mean learning songs by ear, or working on transcribing a solo by your favorite guitarist.

As long as you work on learning music by ear, and expanding your ability to hear music in the moment, you’re being productive with ear training in your routine.

Here are four examples of ear training exercises that you could use in today’s guitar practice session.

  • Pick out the chords to a song by ear.

  • Learn a riff from a recording.

  • Transcribe a solo by ear from your favorite player.

  • Sing intervals, scales, arpeggios, or other musical devices.



6. Listening – 10 - 20 Minutes

When working on listening, take time to do focused listening.

You probably listen to music for hours a day, but it’s often in the background, or you’re not really paying attention.

In this routine, spend time listening intently as you grow your ears and expand your musical understanding.

Here are four examples of listening exercises that you could use in today’s rest day practice session.

  • Listen to a solo you’re learning on repeat.

  • Listen to a song you’re learning on repeat.

  • Listen to a new album.

  • Listen to a new artist you just discovered.


7.  Music Theory – 10 - 20 Minutes

The final element in this guitar practice routine is music theory.

As was the case with ear training, music theory is extremely helpful in your studies, but many players avoid it.

By working on practical theory, such as analyzing songs, or reciting the note names for a scale, you tie theory to your fretboard in your studies.

Here are four examples of music theory exercises  

  • Read about a specific theory concept you’re studying.

  • Write out theory exercises such as key signatures, scales, chord tones.

  • Analyze a song or chord progression you’re learning to play.

  • Learn a new musical term such as Coda, refrain, passing tone, etc.


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