I'm learning how to play the guitar and it's been a year and a half I think. I play both acoustic and electric guitar.

I would like to get my playing to the next level with an everyday guitar routine. So I've looked around and this is what I'm doing now everyday:

  1. Untune guitar and tune by ear.
  2. Play all notes and say their name out loud (to learn where each note is).
  3. Practice a "simple" song. What I mean by simple is just chords progressions. I stick to the same song until I get the right sound with each chord (no buzzing) and the chord changes right. (For example now I'm on Karma Police)
  4. Play a scale in one key up and down. (Now I'm on the blues scale)
  5. Start over 1-4 with a pick. First time I use my fingers.

Is there something particularly important that I left out?

As a self-taught guitarist, I feel I've been having to much fun just playing songs I like, even just part of songs I like. So now I really want to take a step back and learn the fretboard, maybe reading notes (and not tablatures), the scales, develop a good ear, play chords fast and clean and whatever your suggestions will be :)

Thanks in advance to anyone taking some time to answer.

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    Have a quick read of the Related links in the bar to the right -->
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 15:02
  • Also have a look at this and this answer.
    – Matt L.
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 16:07
  • This inspired me the first time I read it: musicfanclubs.org/rage/articles/g-one.htm Commented May 13, 2015 at 22:20
  • Warm up exercises should be number one on your list. I'm surprised no one has suggested this. It's not going to take your guitar playing to the next level but your hands will thank you down the road.
    – Tony
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 15:06
  • A dedicated half hour of theory work will also do you well.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 18:36

5 Answers 5


I admire and respect your dedication to continued improvement. One thing I have learned after many years of playing guitar is that no matter how good you get, there is always ample room for improvement. That's a good thing because it keeps the guitar fresh and interesting. I can continue to improve until I am no longer on the north side of the grass.

How quickly you make gains depends on how focused and intentional you are at improving your skills. From your question, it appears that you are deliberately seeking to avoid the trap many guitarist fall into where they learn to play a few songs they like and never try to challenge themselves to get outside the comfort zone they create for themselves - thus they never get any better.

For me personally, I find it more inspiring to develop new skills by learning to play songs that I will enjoy playing. I am always working on several that are more challenging than the ones already in my repertoire. By gearing my "practice" ("homework") around a goal of learning to perform a particular song I like and want to play, there is a tangible reward continually visible on the horizon. Once I finally master the difficult parts that allow me to add that song to my repertoire, I find more songs to work on.

I find that once I master a difficult lick or run in a particular song - I discover many more songs that I can suddenly now play - that I could not before - because they had similar passages or riffs.

This works for me because I play guitar to perform and to accompany my singing as both a solo performer and part of a band. Your goals may differ but even lead guitar players have a repertoire and building your list of songs you can play (rhythm or lead) provides a tangible and measurable sense of accomplishment!

One thing I have recently started doing more of that you might also enjoy, is playing along to guitar backing tracks. Getting the band together to rehearse or practice is logistically challenging - so practicing with other musicians is not something that I can do on a daily basis. But practicing or playing to a backing track is the next best thing.

You can find free backing tracks on line and download them to a file folder on your computer. Or you can create your own with some simple recording software.

The sites I use to find backing tracks are Guitar Backing Tracks dot com for Mp3 tracks or Betty Lou's Guitar Music Site which has MIDI backing tracks to go along with the lead sheets for thousands of songs organized by genre and searchable on the site.

There are free programs for converting MIDI to MP3 if you prefer to convert the MIDI backing tracks to MP3 - but I just store them all in the same file folder and play them on my computer with external speakers. I can also connect my computer to my PA and play the tracks through there if I want to.

Playing with other musicians or to a backing track helps with your timing and makes practice a little more interesting. You still have to work on the repetitive runs to master a given lick. But you can use Audacity (Free open source software program), to slow down the playback speed of any sound file without changing the pitch. Gradually increase the playback speed until you can play it at an increased speed - then you have it mastered!

You can click the link to download audacity if you don't have it already.

I wish you the best of luck and great enjoyment as you continue your never ending journey of improving your guitar playing!


Keep playing songs you like also, and more importantly make part of your routine learning new songs you like. Also I would add something 100% creative, whether it's writing a new riff or chord progression, improvising over changes, or coming up with different sounds, or even better all of the above.

You shouldn't have to detune before tuning. If you have a guitar that is not a little off every day then either your ears are still developing, your strings are super old, or I want to know what kind of guitar you have (Modulus?). Also I would check and fix tuning with electronics after doing it by ear since that will help your ears hear what better tuning sounds like.

  • ^^^ This, 100% ^^^ I was going to say "keep having fun learinign & playing songs you like". Get more adventurous, and get creative. Pretty much what Todd suggests. One thing NOT to do is keep the same routine so that you get bored and disinterested. Keep it fun, and you'll be learning without realising it :-) Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 14:49

Aside from Todd's suggestion, I also recommend:

  1. Trying to play something from ear (listen to something, then try playing it without looking for the tab/score). Playing by ear is an incredibly useful skill.

  2. Try a bit of sight reading every day. Both from tab and standard/classic notation.

These are both skills that may not be essential in the short term, but in the long run they will prove very useful.


I've answered the following numerous times to questions like these.

If you really want to take your musicianship to the next level, spend time understanding classical western harmony rather than doing "shortcuts" like saying the note of each fret out loud. Once you have a firm grasp on theory fundamentals, you won't have to "memorize" notes; rather you will understand the different relationships between notes, chords, and harmonic progressions.

In terms of physical training on your instrument, you really can't achieve full competence without being able to play scales and arpeggios in all scales. Of course playing just one scale a day helps, but if you can afford the time, you should play all major and minor scales (or, at the very least, play all blues scales rather than just one). Once you get good enough (it doesn't take that long, trust me), the time required to do your daily scale playing is greatly diminished (you will be able to play it faster, and with fewer mistakes, so you finish much quicker).

I know a lot of musicians that don't know their theory, don't really know what a scale is, and say things like "I prefer the sound of E major over the sound of D major"* <- in my non-professional-and-very-amateur opinion, these people are poor musicians.

  • 3
    First off: Music came first, then there was theory. Second: How is it a "shortcut" learning every tone on the fretboard? This is not something theory will help you with, but will be a great help in applying theory. Third: Music is basically all opinion, it's things like preferring the sound of a certain chord over another that makes great musicians great. A E major sounds different from a D major, even if the intervals are the same, and one whole step is not a lot (in theory). Commented May 13, 2015 at 21:31
  • An E major and D major are both major chords, they sound the exact same if one lowers their tuning by a whole step. What he's getting at is that people don't know the relative difference between types of chords like a sus2 or sus4 vs major vs minor etc Commented May 13, 2015 at 21:33
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    I know this, and it should be clear by my comment. But in reality, there is a difference in sound between an E and D major chord, no matter what the theory tells you. It's what sounds good that matters, not what theory tells you. Theory has its place, I use it a lot myself, but some people exaggerate its importance. It should be clear that t's not necessary to know theory to perform music. Commented May 13, 2015 at 21:36
  • I agree that it is not necessary to know theory to perform music, or even to perform it very well (I believe McCartney never learned any theory, for example) and become a great musician; the fact is theory is the better way to take musicianship to the next level as the OP asked. I disagree with your statement on the difference in chords. Aside from the frequency, both chords are exactly the same when played separately (i.e. with no other chord to create tonal context) <- an exception would probably people with synesthesia or perfect pitch.
    – lobi
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 16:21
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    So playing a tune in A one day and E in another will make no difference, except to people with absolute pitch? We will have to agree to disagree on this one. Commented May 16, 2015 at 11:06

I think the best strategy is by setting clear goals and measuring progress. Seems simple and some people just do it naturally, and then after years of rinse and repeat we perceive them as "naturally talented"

  1. Set Goals - what is it you want to achieve. It has to be concrete and measurable like: I want to be able to play locrian scale in all places on the neck in 150 bpm or I want to play Karma Police so it sounds exactly like on recording. I want to improvise over blues progression so it sounds ok when i record myself.
  2. Measure which comes down to record yourself. There's no fairer and harsher judge than recording. Do it as often as you can. Hate your own playing? Good - you've just seen the room for improvement that you haven't seen before.
  3. Try to identify problems with your playing, narrow them down and focus practice hours on this problem. Great classical instrumentalists are the kind of people who would spend a day on going repeatedly through two bars of a piece.

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