7 Ways To Make This Year Your Best Year Learning Guitar


So with the new year, now upon us, you might be looking back at the previous year and thinking, “I did not make much progress. What happened? It was January, then all of a sudden it was December and I feel like I have not got anywhere.”

Well, if that sounds like you keep reading, I have got seven ideas to help you make more progress this year than ever before and become the guitar player you have always dreamed of being. Sound good? Well let’s get started

1: Set Achievable Goals

Most guitar players I talk to don’t have any goals, let alone one that’s clear, tangible or achievable. If you don’t have a goal you will just end up going around in circles because you don’t know where you’re heading. Now, when it comes to setting a goal, there’s a few ways to do it.

Firstly you can set a numerical goal. This is a goal that would be something like a total number target. So I want to practise 1,000 minutes a month. 

Secondly it could be a system-based goal. This is a specific frequency over a period of time. So you might want to practise three days a week. 

Lastly it might be a progress goal. This is a directional trend where the specifics don’t really matter as much. So something like, I want to improve my blues guitar playing. 

Now, the problem with the progress goals is that it is not very clear because just saying you want to improve your blues playing is not specific enough. So you need to drill down a bit more to make your goal something more defined, such as ‘I want to be able to play lead over a 12 bar blues’

Once you have your big goal, then you can break it down into milestones by asking yourself ‘what do I need to be able to do to achieve that?’. 

So the first thing might be to learn one of the minor pentatonic scale patterns really well. Next would be to learn a few licks from that pattern and lastly learn some lead guitar techniques such as bends, hammer-ons and pull-offs to embellish those licks. 

Now you have a clear roadmap of where you should be heading to reach that big goal. 

I think the best type of goal is a system goal, such as ‘I’m going to practice three times a week’. Because you are focusing more on effort and not on the outcome which you are in complete control of.

2: Have Structure

If you haven’t got structure in your guitar practice, you will feel like you are been pulled in a million different directions. 

Structure is going to really help you put everything in the right sequence. When I talk about chords for instance on the podcast, I break the topics down into how you should be approaching it and in what order you should be learning the different types of chords. 

For example you do not want to go straight to learning power chords before you have learnt your open power chords and you don’t want to learn your open power chords before your have learnt you open major & minor chords.

This is why it is so important to follow a method when learning guitar like we do at Beginner Guitar Academy. Our method is centred around the seven essential guitar skills with each level building on top of the last. If you have not heard of the seven essential guitar skills before check out episode 79 of the podcast, which is called the ‘7 Essential Guitar Skills’ for a breakdown of them.

The idea is when you focus your guitar practise around the seven essential skills, which are picking, chords, arpeggios, scales, rhythm, notes, and aural, You’re working on all the areas you need to know to become a well-rounded guitar player giving your practice structure. 

3: Practice More

Now this one might sound obvious but common sense is not always common practice. So at this point you’ve got your goal, you know what you are aiming for and you have got structure and are heading in the right direction.

Now none of that is going to help you if we don’t actually put in the time to practise. Now, when I say put in the time, I don’t mean we need to be practising for three hours a day because it’s not the hours you put in, it’s what you put in those hours that makes the difference. 

That’s the importance of having structure in your practise. If your half an hour of practice is a structured half an hour, you’ll actually get more done than someone else who does an unstructured two hours. So little and often is the key when it comes to practice.

How it works with learning guitar is you’re learning habitual movements. If you’re working on your chord changing, you are literally teaching into your hands those movements. It’s repetition that helps you do that. Obviously, there’s some tips and strategies, which we go through all the time in the podcast, to help you expedite that and make that process faster. But fundamentally, it’s repetition. We can’t get away from that. Yes, Sometimes it’s going to be frustrating but the good news is there’s ways to get around that.

If you’re getting frustrated, then you need to regress it. You need to simplify it. If it’s too easy, you need to progress it. You need to make it harder. But the most important thing is practise more frequently. Make sure you’re practising a good number of times per week. How many times is that? It depends how quickly you want to progress. Obviously, the more you do it, the faster you will reach your goals. Especially if you are following a structured method. 

So how can you practise more? First thing you need to do is make time to practice. Don’t try and find the time. You will never find time. It’s always going to be filled with other things. You’ve got to make the time.

Morning or evening are often best for practice. We call that bookending your day. The start and the end of the day are times where not a lot of people are going to be asking for your time so it’s the perfect time for guitar practice. 

Another thing to help get more practice time is have your guitar out on a stand so its ready to be picked up when you have a few minutes. Also If you can make yourself a practise corner in your home where everything you need to practice is out and ready to go that’s going to make it easy to pick up your guitar and just get going instead of hunting around for five minutes for a guitar pick. 

Another thing you could do is take your guitar to work and practice on your lunch break. Look for any dead time throughout the day, where instead of scrolling on your phone, you pick up your guitar and play.

4: Use A Metronome

The amount of students that do not use a metronome when practicing is crazy. One of the most important things in music is rhythm. You’ve got to have good rhythm and good timing if you want to be a good guitarist and a metronome is going to help you develop that. 

Now, a metronome can be frustrating because it’s another thing to listen to and think about when you are practicing and probably trying to think of lots of other things at the same time. 

By using a metronome frequently, eventually, you won’t even notice the metronome’s on, you just lock into it and you won’t even be thinking about it. Now that does not happen straight away and that does not happen without deliberate practise with the metronome. But if you are consistant with using a metronome and patient the results will come.

5: Look After Your Guitar

This is something that a lot of guitar players, not just beginners, ignore.

Having your guitar set up regularly is going to make a big difference to your guitar. Having it set up is going to make it easier to play, It’s going to feel nicer in your hands and on your fingers and in turn make you want to play it more.

If you’re doing something like barre chords, you can make them easier to play just by having a better setup and lowering the guitars action which is the how far the strings are away from the guitar neck. If the action is low the strings are closer to the guitar neck making them easier to push down. 

Next wipe down your guitar strings after you use it to take off the grease, grime and dead skin and make sure you change your strings regularly. Changing your strings will be like giving your guitar a new lease of life especially if you haven’t changed them in a while. 

6: Stay Motivated

Now, motivation is like a battery. It gets drained, especially as a beginner.

It often feels like you’re climbing up Mount Everest in every practice session in the early days of playing. You will have days where you pick up a guitar and it’s like, “I played this so well yesterday? And now it’s like I’ve never played it before.” 

This is just the way we learn a new hobby. This is how the mind works. So staying motivated is really important to push through these challenges and I have a few ideas to help with that. 

Firstly listen to your favourite music. Connect with the reason you wanted to play guitar in the first place. If there’s a particular band that made you want to start learning guitar then listen to them again to help motivate yourself.

Watch performances to help keep you inspired, go to a live show and watch a band, if you don’t have any live venues near you watch them on YouTube, watch a documentary, read a biography of your favourite guitarist.

Learn a new style of music to help get you inspired. I talked about this in episode 158 of the podcast not that long ago, ‘Exploring Different guitar Styles’. In that episode, I go through country, jazz, rock and blues. Exploring a new style of music is a really good way to help kickstart your interest.

Have a go at writing a song, take some of the chords you know and start playing around with them. If you are a Beginner Guitar Academy member I have a song writing workshop in the workshop section of the site. 

7: Enjoy The Journey

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s going to take time. A lot of students that quit, they quit because they have unrealistic expectations. They expect to learn guitar in a couple of days. That does not happen. It’s going to take probably a few years. Bear that in mind. It’s going to take a few months just till your fingers start to harden up and you start feeling less clumsy and you start getting a song going and it starts to sound music. 

Be patient. Don’t just focus on the end goal and learn to enjoy the journey.

You’re not always going to be able to predict your results because obviously you don’t know what’s coming and you don’t know how hard you’re going to find something. Everyone is different. So bear that in mind. 

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and don’t just focus on the end goal. And lastly just remember:

“Sometimes you want to give up a guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re going to be rewarded. “

Do you know who said that? Jimi Hendrix. Probably the best guitar player of all time and even he felt like give up the guitar but he stuck with it and look what happened to him.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more check out our online guitar school Beginner Guitar Academy. Beginner Guitar Academy teaches you everything you need to know through online classes, teacher support and resources to help you improve everyday.