How to practice guitar with limited time – and still get better

Clock - how to practice guitar with limited time and still get better

Clock - how to fit in guitar practice even when you have limited time


How to practice guitar with limited time – and still get better. Tips and techniques to make your guitar practices more effective and to create time even with a busy schedule


With everything else we need to get done in a day – our jobs, classes, driving around doing 101 errands – it can seem overwhelming thinking about adding something else to the list.


You want to get better at guitar but everything you’ve read has told you that you need to spend ‘X amount of time a day, X amount of times a week’ to get better and to make progress.


It can be enough to put you off even starting!


While spending time playing the guitar is of course important to improve, it’s really only part of the picture. In some cases you will hardly seem to be getting better at guitar at all by following this advice.


So what can you do that will get you the same results as playing endless hours everyday in a much shorter amount of time? I’m going to show you how to you can learn guitar even with limited time.


“Where did the week go”?


We’re all busy, so we need to make these practices fit into our lives – not have to find more time for them. After all, we can’t add more hours to the day (no matter how hard we try!)


I’m going to show you how to:

  • Integrate your practices into your life
  • Make every minute of your practice time count
  • Get the same amount of practice done in less time
  • Make your progress faster than most people who spend hours a day practicing

Step 1: How to integrate and set up your learning space. (Don’t bother with the designated guitar room just yet!)

Step 2: Plan out your guitar practice and get in the ‘mini practice’ mind space

Step 3: Make your mini practices more productive than any practice you’ve had before



Step 1: How to integrate and set up your learning space



Take away the obstacles before you even start to practice


When I first started to learn how to play the guitar, I would leave my lesson full of good intentions to practice each night until the next week. “Even if I play it for just 10 minutes, that’ll do” I thought. I would get home, put my guitar away… and there it would stay until the next week.


I’d feel annoyed with myself that I had let the whole week go by without picking it up once. Seriously, I couldn’t find even 30 minutes in a whole week to play it? I would go back to my teacher and wait for the inevitable question — “So did you practice this week?”


After a while, I thought about why I didn’t seem to be able to get any practice in during the week. Was I really that busy? Was I just not interested? No — but I could feel pretty lazy at times.


So really there was two options.

  • Option 1: be lazy. Give up and not play guitar.
  • Option 2: take away excuses I gave myself not to practice when I did feel lazy.

Being able to play guitar was something I really wanted to do. The fact that you are reading this means you really want to be able to play guitar too. But even with hectic schedules, learning guitar can be relaxing rather than a chore. By taking away as many obstacles as you can – you’re also make your task easier.


Here’s some ideas to get you started:
  • Buy a guitar stand: this was one the best investments to my guitar playing (next to the actual guitar). Don’t leave your guitar in a case or a bag. When you are in your house, leave it on the guitar stand. You can see it. You can pick up easily any time. Plus guitars look awesome in any room (but not in a case).
  • Have your amp set up next to the guitar: Find a place where you can keep your amp next to the guitar rather than having to go and set it up every time you want to practice.
  • Have your music stand set up / table near by: make it easy for yourself to either put your music on the stand or to put your tablet on the table nearby.

Take away as many obstacles as possible so when you want to practice – you can!


Before I worked this out, the thought of getting the guitar out of the case…


Going to get the amp…


Moving it all around…


Plugging it all in…


Then knowing I’d have to put it all back! Ugh!


As soon as those tasks were gone – so were those excuses.




Leave the guitar somewhere you often sit or walk by


It’s great to set up a music room. If you’re like me the idea of having 50 guitars hanging from the wall along with a selection of amps all set up in a home studio sounds awesome!


But if you never go in it, even if our music room isn’t quite what we have in our mind, it’s pretty pointless.


Keep your guitar where you will see it


If you hang out in the front room then put the guitar next to where you sit.

If there is another room you always walk through or pass then that can also be a great spot to keep your guitar during the week.


Find a home for your guitar where you can leave it set up and ready to play, but also somewhere where it will be seen. It’s easy to forget about playing the guitar when it’s hidden away in the spare room or behind the couch.


Guitars sitting on chairs - a good place to leave them to make sure you practice rather than in their case
You don’t have to give up your favourite chair for your guitar – but it would be a good way to make sure you play it at least once a day.



Have all your practice material ready to go


Now that you’ve got your practice area sorted out and in view, the last thing you need is to have your practice material ready.


If you have books and sheets from your guitar lessons then keep them on your guitar stand or in a folder next to the guitar. This will save you looking for it when you just want to practice.


If you are learning from a tablet or a screen, try and keep them close by to your practice area.


Keeping your guitar picks, guitar tuner and any other accessories such as your capo or a slide by your guitar is a good idea.


Step 2: Plan out your guitar practice and get in the ‘mini practice’ mind space

If you can’t find 30 minutes in one go to practice,
give yourself three 10 minute practice slots


Don’t feel obliged to find ‘X amount of time’ to practice guitar


You have probably heard about the 10,000 hour rule from Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers.


I know, you’re think “how am I meant to find 10,000 hours to practice?”. But wait — 10,000 hours? Seriously?


As Josh Kaufman broke down in his Ted Talk, this research was around people such as world class athletes. While this is really interesting it’s not what you need to base your practice schedule on from the beginning.


“There’s no point practicing now, there’s not enough time. I’ll do it tomorrow.”


Your practice has less to do with the length of time and more to do with how deliberate the practice is, which we will cover in a moment.


You have a million things to do in a day and all our lives just seem to get busier and busier. Don’t try and find an hour to practice every night if it just isn’t there.


Do you have 20 minutes today? Maybe 40 tomorrow?


Great! Use it.


Little and often is much better than 1 long practice once a week, especially if they’re structured.


Supercharge your practice time: Make your guitar practice more efficient

Fast traffic at night light trails


Sometimes learning guitar can be overwhelming.


There’re chords. The single notes. The strumming. The solos. The theory… how am I meant to practice all of this? Where should I even start?


There’s a lot of learn with guitar. But you don’t need to learn it all at once to get good results. So how can we practice guitar more efficiently? So far we have taken away barriers before our practices by making the guitar easy to pick up and play.

We can also get rid of the guesswork of what we are going to be practicing. At the end of each practice, work out what you are going to do in your next practice. Write it down. Make a note on your phone.


This way you aren’t wasting time deciding what to do when you pick up the guitar.


Did you work on the strumming this time? Next time make a note to recap your strumming and spend maybe half the practice on it. What else do you need to improve on? Make a note of it and be prepared for your next practice. As you get better you will be covering more things in your practices – this is where this skill will really help you if you have limited time.


Practice up to several times a day in short periods instead


It can be tough to find 30-60 minutes a day in one go.


But what if you break it up?


If you can’t get an hour minutes in one go then give yourself three 20 minute practice slots.


Maybe you have 10 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes when you get home and a half hour before you go to sleep. Added up you’ve spent 60 minutes playing guitar that day!


As long as you have planned ahead you won’t have wasted a minute.


Don’t get frustrated that you can’t practice more; it’s meant to be fun!


I know it can be frustrating, but sometimes even with the best intentions; some weeks are just busier than others. More than anything, guitar is meant to be fun. Once you learn to take the stress out of your practice time you will be enjoying it even more.


It also becomes easier!


We all have those days where things just take longer. It’s ok. But the more you build it into your routine the more consistent you will be with your practice. The more consistent you are with your deliberate practicing the faster you will see your guitar skills develop.


Step 3: Make your mini practices more productive than any practice you’ve had before

How to get more practice in less time


How does your guitar practice look at the moment? Have you ever really thought about it?


Maybe it’s something like this:

  • Play a few songs through a couple of times
  • Practice a scale
  • Play through a song you like to play (you’re really good at it)
  • Maybe practice one of those songs you played earlier again

I’ll be honest.


I used to think my guitar practices were a lot more productive than they actually were.


So I sat there and played guitar for an hour or so. That means if I did that 6 times a week that’s 6-12 hours a week. That’s pretty good right?


Well — yes and no.


Studies have shown that there is a big difference between sitting around and practicing for X amount of time and having ‘deliberate practice’.


Noa Kageyama of bulletproofmusician breaks down how most musicians practice in the article ‘how many hours a day should I practice‘. Essentially, there is mindless practice and deliberate practice.


I was definitely part of the mindless practice team. I played guitar a lot. But what exactly was I practicing? I’d play the song through. I didn’t like it yet – so I played it again.


Really, I needed to come at it from a different perspective. We will go into more detail of this in the next section ‘Focus your practice’.


But before we do, let’s add up the time we have saved so far.


Example of a typical practice routine:

  • 5 minutes setting up the guitar up
  • 2 minutes deciding what to play first
  • Playing a 4 minute song through 3 times
  • 2 minutes to decide what to look at next
  • Scales for a couple minutes
  • Flick through the folder for a bit…
  • Try a different song a few times
  • Play a few songs you know really well

After focusing a typical practice routine:

  • Playing a 4 minute song through 3 times
  • Scales for a couple minutes
  • Try a different song a few times

So far we have saved around 10 minutes!

  • Play your favourite song (go ahead, this is fun! Plus you’ve still spent less time practicing.) Or better yet, restructure your guitar practice to make it even more efficient.
  • Spend a minute planning for your next practice.

So even if we kept the same practice routine, we would get more actual guitar playing in just by planning ahead and removing obstacles.


Focus your guitar practice time


I mentioned about unstructured and deliberate practice. For your short practices to work you need to focus on deliberate practice.


Let’s take a song as an example. You really want to be able to play it all the way through. From start to finish.


You’re pretty good at it now. The only thing is, every time you play it there is just something off.


Rather than thinking of a song as one big task, break it up. A song is built up from different components. A verse. A chorus. A bridge.


Inside each component are smaller components.


Inside a typical verse there is:

  • The chords
  • The order of the chords
  • The rhythm
  • How many repetitions are there?
  • How many variations are there?
  • What are they?
  • Are all the chords played the same?
  • What techniques are used?

When you are playing this verse – what part is it you need to practice?


What part is making it sound wrong?


Is your rhythm out of time? Are you not sure what the order of the chords are? When does that variation come in? Maybe it’s changing between the chords that’s the problem.


Rather than playing through the whole song, spend your practice time refining the weak links of your playing. This might mean you spend 10 minutes just move 2 chords back and forth. It could be longer. But this will move your guitar playing forward light years compared to just playing the song through again and again. You have 90% of the song down already! You just need to refine those parts.


Track your progress


So you have done all the pre work. You have made it easy to practice. You have pin pointed the areas you need to practice.


At the end of session, make a note of what you got better at. Also make a note of what you need to focus on in your next practice. Did you get those chords or do they still need work?


As you only have limited practice time you need to get as specific as possible.


With a few adjustments to how you spend your guitar practice time, you can make it far more productive and efficient than ever before. You can also fit in your guitar playing around your already busy schedule.


Using these techniques you will learn to play the songs you love as you will be able to find the time to practice them.


It’s easy to read the article, but you need to make a promise to yourself now to go and try these ideas out.


Don’t put it off any longer. Decide when you are going to practice this week right now and write it down. At the end of the week see how you did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top