I have noticed that even when I skip a day in my guitar practice my skills drastically go down. Furthermore, my friends are able to improve at guitar faster than I can and it seems that they don't easily lose practice even when they don't play it. I am confused. My guitar playing is always sloppy even when I practice well. How should I fix it? Please guide me on how to improve my skills and practice guitar.

I practice about 3 hours a day and I'm self taught. This has also become hurdle hence. I try to play smoothly yet I'm unable. It's always sloppy

  • 3
    Keep in mind that everyone has their own speed at learning new things. Dont loose your head because your friends may be faster... If you can provide more details maybe some people here can give you advice on how to improve your learning. How long do you play guitar? Do you take lessons from a teacher or is it self taught? How often and for how long do you practice? Where do you see your main difficulties etc...
    – Olli
    May 20, 2020 at 7:34
  • 2
    You should get a guitar teacher. That will help make sure that you aren't practicing the wrong things and actually making you worse.
    – LemmyX
    May 20, 2020 at 17:07

5 Answers 5


You say you practice 3 hours a day but you didn't for how many years. That counts for a lot. If you are self taught then there is no telling how many bad habits you've developed. Time may not be the biggest issue. When we practice we reinforce patterns and if, as you say, you are always sloppy and not smooth and you keep practicing in the hopes that it will clean up then you are really reinforcing "sloppy" as a standard. If you had gone through a graded curriculum with an instructor, or self taught with high quality resources, you might be able to avoid this.

You mention playing guitar "faster". Speed comes from practicing SLOWLY. SLOW --> SPEED. You need to understand that in order to play something fast it needs to be so deeply programmed into the muscle memory that it is automatic, as easy as breathing. Until you have something memorized to that level attempting speed is useless. Take a scale run, or a lick from a song, that you are trying to master. Spend about a week playing it 100s of times a day so slow that you can't play it wrong, e.g. one note per second (that's right 1 per second). Play with your hands and body relaxed but not totally limp (you still need good posture and correct hand position). Get it to the point where you can hear it in your head when you're not playing, and can mimic the movements without the guitar. Then after you've put in several 1000 reps start playing it in time with a metronome. I should have asked or stated in the first place, use a metronome (are you?).

When it comes to pushing the speed of a piece that you have memorized there is a standard trick. Start at a speed where you can play it without any tension in your body (this is after the week or more spent on drilling it into your memory) and play it a few times at that speed. Then go up 2bpm and repeat, then down 1bpm and repeat. Continue on this path until you are 20bpm faster than you started provided that you don't start making mistakes or getting tense. If you do then stop at whatever speed that happened and make a note of it. Every day do this same exercise but starting at a higher speed. If you're luck and you got 20bpm faster without problems you can start the next day at that new speed and push it another 20bpm. This approach works very well for developing clean and accurate speed on any instrument. It probably works for dancers too, working in complicated sequences.

The above practice advice assumes that you at least have a solid foundation in the basics. That you have developed finger independence and have good hand posture, not squeezing too hard, not putting the thumb over the edge of the neck, etc. It also assume that you have put in some time in developing basic technique. If you have not developed these basic attributes then your approach may be self defeating. In learning an instrument like the guitar it is important to divide up your practice time into a few categories. These might be something like;

(1) Basic hand movement exercises. This is not even music but the athleticism of guitar. You can find 1000s of exercises that go back 200 years or so. The exercises in all modern books are the same as Tarrega published for classical guitar in the 1800s. Things like hammer on pull off chromatic exercises up the neck, the 1-2-3-4 exercise, "spider" exercises. You will find exercises for the picking hand too, alternate picking, string skipping, finger picking etc. Some of these are done on the open strings. The point of them is to teach your fingers to move correctly and your pick to locate the correct strings without the added burden of trying to play a song. The guitar is hard enough. It takes time and patience to get skill on it.

(2) Basic music exercises. These would be the basic rudiments of music (and probably the same for all instruments), such as the major scale, playing intervals in sequence and together, simple open string chord forms. Most graded method books, e.g. Carcassi, Mel Bay, Levitt, provide a set of common exercises in each key. Carcassi has the scale, the I-IV-V progression (or cadence), then a simple scale exercise and an arpeggio exercise, then 1 or 2 simple etudes that are hard enough to be a challenge for the beginner but not so hard that they kill you and not really worth making part of a repertoire.

(3) Simple and complex pieces. This would be comprised of musical compositions that could be part of a musician's repertoire permanently. Such pieces would require that the guitarist had at least developed some mastery of the first two categories. A performance piece might takes several months to learn and get clean.

(4) Techniques and technical exercises. This can be thought of as a more advanced version of the first and second categories. The intent of the first category is to get the hand moving they way you want it to and in many cases one doesn't even listen to the guitar. Classical guitar books will tell you to mute the strings. You're only "feeling" your way around the instrument. The technical exercises might involve complex musical patterns that are designed to give you exercise in a specific technique like, alternate picking, consecutive picking, sweeping, slurring, tapping. These will also work your endurance.

There could be more categories and different guitarists may agree or disagree with my division. In all of these cases it is important to use a metronome.

A lot of modern "self taught" guitarists never go through any of these training exercises and just go for category (3). Like a total beginner wants to learn Eruption and thinks if they just try hard the technique will appear one day. That usually does NOT happen. Even the greatest guitarists and musicians in the world will tell you that after 40 years of training they begin each practice session with category (1) basic movement exercises. These transform the body and everything is perishable so it needs to be reinforced forever. I would not worry if you think that your friends play better than you with less practice. They may have used their practice time more wisely, have more years experience, have more effects on their guitar, etc. It may be that you are just frustrated and comparing yourself to other will not make that better.

I would not recommend practicing less, but practicing more intelligently. Get a routine written on paper and follow it daily. Pick a set of basic movements as a warm up, a set of scale exercises for practicing music, and a few pieces you want to learn and get better at. Use the metronome and following 2 up 1 down method for speed. Make sure you isolate specific movements that give you problems. Perhaps the songs you play are cleaner than you think but one spot always comes out like crap. It could be a string skip or a sweep that you're are not good at. If so then get your hands on some basic movement exercises for that technique and drill them. Then your song should get cleaner too.


It's hard to point out whats the problem without seeing you playing. The best advise would be to contact a music teacher. They have the experience in teaching people and know what they are doing (and what you might be doing wrong). But I can give you some general advice on practicing:

Practice time:

Do you practice three hours straight? I think that is way to much. Make your practice sessions shorter. Maybe 20 or 30 minutes should be okay. If you want to practice more, make more sessions, but keep the time of each session about 30 mins and be sure to have enough time between the sessions. Even if practice can be boring some times, it should never be a hurdle to practice. You should have fun practicing.

What to practice:

Don't push yourself too much. Start with simple things and dont overwhlem yourself with complicated stuff. Try to find songs you like. Learning something you enjoy makes the process of learning joyfull.

Sloppy playing:

To play smoothly, you have to be relaxed. If you are trying too hard, you will end up playing sloppy again. Dont stress yourself. Make yourself comfortable when practicing. Dont get annoyed if are not able to play smoothly. It takes a lot of time.

You can try to slow down what you are playing. Like really slow. So slow, that you are able to play it smoothly. If you are able to play it slow but smootly, play it again and again. If I practice something, i have to play it correctly and smoothly like 3 times one after the other. Then I increase the tempo a little bit. Repeat until you have the original tempo.

  • Use a metronom.

  • Depending on what you are learning (like a whole song), you can try
    to break it down in different parts which you can practice

  • Try to find out what are the things that make you play sloppy,
    extract them and practice them individually.

  • Try to count out loud while playing (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and) and/or tap your foot on the ground.

Something which helped me a lot was to seperate the rythm from the technical aspect (like which chords to finger and which pattern to play). By extracting the rythm and learn it by tapping it on my thigh, I was able to internalize it without the complexity of chord fingering etc. This is - at least from my little experience - the most common cause of sloppy playing.

Last but not least don't get annoyed if your progress is not as fast as the progress of your friends. Just dont give up and keep on playing. Sooner or later you will be able to catch up.


A good teacher can look at how you play and give you a list of things you are doing wrong in your practice time. Chances are they will inform you that the time spent practicing has been rushed and perhaps unfocused or where the focus has been on quantity of music instead of quality of performance. Everybody practices differently, but there are some things you can learn to do that will help clean up the sloppiness and actually make it easier to play. You can pick and choose what suits you best, and the end result will be determined by those choices.


One simple but very effective thing you can do is to regularly record yourself while you practice.

Nothing fancy, for example you can use your phone to video-record yourself.

Later, play it back and observe... it may be unpleasant at first, but it will also be extremely useful to see both what you're doing right and what you're doing poorly. Having this sort of feedback will help you brain to learn its lessons, so to speak, much better and faster.


Here is a simple test and a small thumb rule Given that you practice 3 hours a day, you have the commitment, so ruling out that issue and it is much more than I am able to give. So Kudos. I am making the assumption that you are during your early years.

So there could be many other problems and this test will help - The test - Play an unknown tune to a trusted / family member or friend of yours if they are able to recognize it and hum to the tune. You have passed the test and you are good enough.

If not, find the issue, whether it is less correct notes, sound or issue in timing, and fix that. If you cannot find the issue, post a sample a lot of people will be happy to help. If nothing works find a good teacher.

Next then, the thumb rule. Whatever be the outcome of the first, The THUMB RULE is to stop comparing to others. Are you enjoying it? If yes, that's good. Rest all will follow. It does not matter if the friend is playing well. There are always tons of other people even on youtube who would make anybody feel shy.

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