Stuck in a Rut With Your Guitar? Try These Practice Techniques

It’s not uncommon for even the most accomplished guitarists to hit walls when practicing—whether caused by difficulties in learning to play challenging passages cleanly, or uncertainty about how to diagnose and troubleshoot certain problematic areas in their playing.

Sometimes a creative solution is in order. In this lesson, part of an ongoing series on making the most out of your practice time, you’ll examine a few tried-and-true approaches that will benefit players of all types and ability levels. Try one or all the next time you hit a rut in the woodshed.


Just as listening to a recording of your voice can help you prepare for a speech, so too can listening to audio of your practice session. You can hear mistakes you didn’t even know you were making, and find areas that need improving and refining. In a piece that originally appeared in the March 2009 issue, Dan Apczynski explains how recording yourself can double the effectiveness of a practice session.

Once you’ve identified any roadblocks, it your job to slow down, break things down, and carefully iron out any kinks before learning to play the music at tempo. In this 30-minute lesson excerpted from the December 2009 issue, Kirk Hamilton maps out a number of strategies for you.

Lastly, practice might seem serious, but it can be helpful to approach it with a lighthearted spirit. Jane Miller has some good advice for getting into that mindset. In a lesson from the February 2014 issue, she writes, “Play something that you love to play, something that you love to hear. Play something that is fun for your fingers to feel, something that makes your fingers move in a way that feels like a satisfying stretch.”

Click here for more tips on effective practice.

Adam Perlmutter
Adam Perlmutter

Adam Perlmutter holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a master's degree in Contemporary Improvisation from the New England Conservatory. He is the editor of Acoustic Guitar.

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