Effective Guitar Practice – Play at the Edge of Your Ability

Oct 14, 2021Guitar Lessons

This is Captain Obvious speaking….umm….you need to practice to get better at guitar.

Yes. Of course. We all know that.

But we DON’T all know the best methods for practicing guitar effectively and efficiently.

Here’s a simple concept that will not only keep your practicing effective, but will also keep motivation high.

Practice at the edge of your ability.

I like to think of this as the “guitar practice SWEET SPOT”. This is the spot where the practice material is not too difficult (leading to frustration/hopelessness/hocking your gear on Reverb) or too easy (leading to boredom/stagnation).

Your practice material should be reasonably challenging, but not so difficult as to overwhelm you.

Likewise, you must stop wasting time on exercises you’ve had mastered for years that pose no challenge to you.

Sounds like common sense right? Yet how many of us (including myself here) actually keep this principle in mind when practicing guitar?

Let’s look at an example.

let’s say you want to work on improvising over a 12 bar blues using chord tones (root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) for all the changes. At first, it may be enough of a challenge to simply locate all the chord tones for the first chord in the progression. At this point, limit yourself to just improvising with chord tones over the 1 chord in the blues progression.

As a next step, add the 4 chord to the exercise. Now you’re improvising over the 1 chord and the 4 chord using chord tones on a 12 bar blues.

Finally, find the chord tones for the 5 chord. Now you have all the pieces in place to improvise over the entire 12 bar blues progression using chord tones.

Had you tried to jump right in with improvising over the entire progression before getting familiar with each arpeggio in the progression, you would have been overwhelmed and most likely would’ve given up before any real progress was made.

There you have it. Practice at the edge of your ability!

Your challenge is to take this concept and apply it to an area in your guitar playing that you want to improve. I guarantee that this is where the fastest, most consistent improvement will happen.

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