“How much should I practice the guitar?” Depending on who you ask, the answer is somewhere between 15 minutes and eight hours per day. Quite a range.
We’ve all read interviews where famous musicians claim they practiced six or eight hours a day to master the instrument. I call shenanigans.
A better solution is to practice as much as you can without hurting yourself or getting bored. Beginners need time to develop strength, stamina, and coordination in their fingers. It’s not possible for a beginner to practice for very long. Fifteen or thirty minutes might be all you can handle. Just make sure to practice every day.
After overcoming those initial physical limitations, the amount of time is not nearly as important as practicing the right things on a consistent basis. Spending hours noodling around won’t help your playing as much as 15 minutes of focused practice. Likewise playing “Hot Cross Buns” for three hours per day won’t get you very far either.
Not only does repetitive movement cause major physical strain, but endlessly playing scales and exercises is mentally draining. Burnout is the fastest way to lose interest in playing. There is no magic number of hours that will make you improve. The best routine is the one you can stick with. Anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.
What Should I Practice?
We’ve all heard that “practice makes perfect.” But it can take years for some players to figure out WHAT to practice.
As you practice, constantly ask yourself: “Do I really need to know this?”
If your goal is to be a world-class guitar hero, you have to learn certain fundamentals like chords, scales, improvisation, and picking techniques. If you play for your own enjoyment, you may be able to skip some of those things and still play your favorite tunes.
It’s impossible to prescribe a practice routine that works for everyone. Every player naturally has strengths and weaknesses. Some areas of playing the guitar will interest one player and bore another.
Playing a musical instrument is like being an athlete. Some of your ability depends on genetics. The rest depends on your effort. Your genetics determined the size and shape of your hands, the length of your arms, and how precise your hand-eye coordination can be.
That’s the beauty of art. These differences make it impossible for two players to hold or play a guitar the same way. A guitarist with a good ear can learn to mimic Jimi Hendrix, but they will never be Jimi Hendrix.
What If My Hands hurt?
In general, it’s true that more time spent practicing is better than less time. There is also a point of diminishing returns.
Continuing to play after your fingers are sore or your muscles are tired won’t turn you into Steve Vai or Jimi Hendrix. At best you will slow your progress or injure yourself to the point where you can’t play for days or weeks.
At worst you will cause a severe injury that could require surgery or end your career as a guitar player.
If something hurts, stop playing. Depending on the level of discomfort, you may want to take a day (or several days) to recover. Serious pain or injury could require medical attention.
Always err on the side of caution. It takes years of experience to learn the difference between ordinary discomfort and something that might cause serious injury.
So how much should you practice? The real answer depends on your goals, how much time you can spare, and how fast you show improvement. Focus on being consistent and working on your weaknesses instead of noodling around all the time.