guitar in the corner with a strap
It is advisable to play a small amount every day to sustain your fingerstyle guitar skills.

If you are finding it difficult to consistently practice fingerstyle guitar, here are some methods that you can use to create a practice routine and be more consistent.

How To Create An Effective Fingerstyle Guitar Practice Routine

When deciding how you will practice fingerstyle guitar, don't focus on the duration of your practice session. Instead, by concentrating on the frequency and the effectiveness of your practice routine, you will make steady progress with fingerstyle guitar.

Here is how you can make your guitar practice more effective:

  • Make it a habit to pull out your instrument at the same time every day
  • Decide exactly what you need to practice during your session
  • Keep note of what you practiced during your session
  • Take breaks and do something else if your mind wanders

How To Practice Fingerstyle Guitar Effectively

The effectiveness of your fingerstyle guitar practice depends on three things:

  1. Goal setting. What you hope to accomplish in your practice session?
  2. Deliberate or "deep" practice. Are you creating new neural pathways, or just doing run throughs and repeating mistakes?
  3. Time management: Making sure you allocate enough time to sections of the song or techniques that need more work.

How Often Should You Practice Guitar? 

There's a famous saying by Tommy Emmanuel that goes something like this: If I don't practice for one day, I notice. If I don't practice for two days, my wife notices. And if I don't practice for three days, everyone notices!

Although we may not be preparing for a performance at Massey Hall like Tommy, it is crucial to maintain our finger dexterity.  Avoid extended periods without playing the guitar, especially if you are starting out. However, it is completely acceptable to take a week off if you need to go on vacation.

How To Practice Fingerstyle Guitar More Efficiently

If you find that you are not making any progress with fingerstyle guitar, your routine may not be very efficient. In other words, you are spending too much time repeating what you already know and not tackling the parts that need more work.

Keep a practice journal

Some people journal their entire days, writing down everything from the clothes they wore to detailing the mud that they scraped off of their shoes. Consider the practice of journaling your progress with fingerstyle guitar by keeping note of when you practice and what you practiced.

girl writing music in a journal
For the practice journal to work, review it before each of your practice sessions.

Have an idea of exactly what song you want to practice, and note this in your journal. In my case of late, my choice of what to practice is influenced by the music that I am going to make into a tutorial.

The practice journal can make sure you don’t over-practice certain sections. In your journal, lay out the parts that you are going to practice and check to see that you don’t have the same section written too many times.

How to Structure An Effective Guitar Practice Session

Once you’ve decided what to practice, it’s now time to decide how to break up your practice session. Usually, a song is long enough such that you can’t practice the entire song in one go when you are starting to learn the song.

Therefore, divide the song into sections that you are going to tackle individually. Since most fingerstyle songs use the song structure (verse, chorus, bridge, outro) you can use this blueprint to divide your song into playable sections. This allows you to focus on individual parts of the song and really master them before moving on to the next section.

How To Practice a Fingerstyle Guitar Song

Once I've figured out the workable chunks, I like to start practicing the sections at the end of the song. Therefore I can resist the temptation of simply playing the song from the beginning, each time I practice.

I want to avoid a situation where the beginning of the song becomes hyper-practiced and the end of the song is under-learned.

Use Visualization Techniques

Try to imagine how the song would sound if you were playing it perfectly, and strive to make your playing match that vision. As you practice, bring out the details of the music. Make sure you bring out the melody of the song and don't make your accompaniment too overpowering. Pay attention to ghost notes and percussive effects.

Be Strict About Correcting Mistakes

If you make a mistake while practicing a guitar song, it's important to not just move on and ignore the mistake. This is because your brain is more likely to remember the mistake than the correct way of playing the song. In order to erase the mistake and form good habits, you will need to play the section correctly several times in a row before moving on to something else.

Effective Music Practice is Goal Driven

I like to set goals of learning a song by a specific date. This approach provides me with a clear objective and direction regarding what I should focus on during my practice sessions.

There are days however, when you won’t want to practice. One may suggest leaving your instrument out in the corner so that it’s easily accessible for play whenever you want. I don't think this is a good idea, regardless of how packed or empty your schedule may be.

How To Stay Motivated

The real problem is motivation, or lack thereof. To combat this, when I don’t want to play guitar, I watch other people play guitar. And this makes me want to do the same thing.

girls watching a guy play guitar
Watching other fingerstyle guitarists demonstrate their skills is a useful way for me to re-connect with the joy of making music.

It’s imitation, and you can insert some corny joke about how this quality has been with us since we were Chimps. We might as well use it to your advantage.

Pick the Same Time Every Day for Your Guitar Practice Session

I’m not saying, set an alarm at 6.10am every day to pull out your guitar. Actually, that’s worked for me before, but only if I’ve put myself on a tight schedule with a looming deadline.

I’m referring to making it a habit to pull out your guitar at the same moment every time of the day. Choose a time in the evening when the kids have gone to bed, or in the morning before you have breakfast. Pull out your instrument and play something. Then do it again the next day, and the next. Over and over again.

Don't Just Leave Your Guitar Out

This, by the way, is why I’m not much of a proponent of leaving your guitar out in the open in case you have the urge to practice. By scheduling a practice time, you can develop longer lasting habits and be more consistent.

In addition to helping you form good habits, this repetition will also help you to internalize the music and make it feel more natural to play. Over time, you'll find that you're able to play the song more effortlessly and with greater confidence.

Learn To Play With Confidence

Want a consistent approach to mastering fingerstyle guitar? Explore effective techniques, step-by-step exercises, and expert tips to build proficiency and self-assurance with your fingerstyle guitar skills. All of this and more in Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now!